Appendix II: Attacks on the Press in Armenia, 1996-97

  • Lragir, newspaper, legal action, March 1, 1996
    A Yerevan court suspended the publication of the independent daily Lragir for three months.

Lragir published an article on February 7 titled “Greater Armenia within Small Borders,” which called for the restoration of historical Greater Armenia with its original borders and proposed a plan for achieving that goal by 2000. The Ministry of Justice warned the newspaper it would annul its registration if similar publications appeared in the future.

The paper published another article on historical issues by the same author on February 22. One paragraph was deemed anti-Georgian by the government of Georgia, which issued a diplomatic note of protest. The Armenian justice ministry took Lragir to court, which resulted in suspension of its publication.

The paper resumed publication on June 22.

  • Azg, newspaper, censored, April 22, 1996
    The Ministry of Justice ratified an amendment to the registration documents of this independent daily by transferring ownership of the newspaper to a pro-government splinter group called Mission of the Ramgavar-Azatakan Party (MRAP), which was formed after a split in the ranks of the opposition Ramgavar-Azatakan Party. The Ministry registered MRAP on April 15, a week before the Ministry’s decision on the newspaper. Azg‘s founders, who also own and publish the newspaper, thus effectively lost control of the publication. The Ministry also ordered the state-run printing house, Periodika, to stop printing Azg until told otherwise. On April 27, Periodika printed a new eight-page newspaper, using the name and logo of Azg, but without the participation of the newspaper’s editors, who disassociated themselves from the new version.

During two press conferences held on April 23 and 25, the majority of Armenia’s media outlets protested the recent events involving Azg and expressed solidarity with the newspaper’s staff. They also made a public appeal to president Levon Ter-Petrossian as well as to the Chief of the Constitutional Court and to the State Prosecutor.

On May 14, Azg started publishing again as an independent newspaper, after the Spandarian district court in Yerevan on ruled on May 8 that the Justice Ministry’s decision had been unlawful.

  • Vardan Vardanian, state radio, attacked, June 25, 1996
    Unknown assailants attacked Vardanian, the editor of the “Yerevan” radio program on state radio. The attack was believed to be in retaliation for his recent investigative reporting on the poor quality of bread produced in state bakeries.

  • Molorak, newspaper, censored, July 6, 1996
    The government-owned Periodika printing house interrupted publication of the newspaper in early July, officially because it had outstanding debts with the printing house – a common situation for many Armenian newspapers.

The paper accused the authorities of deliberately targeting them for censorship because Molorak had recently published strong criticism of the draft press law proposed by the information minister. The minister had also been the target of personal attacks in the paper. Printing resumed on July 6.

  • All media, censored, September 22, 1996
    Contrary to established rules, the Central Electoral Commission refused to let accredited journalists into its offices on the evening of September 22 during the vote count in the first round of the presidential election.

  • Various media, harassed, September 23, 1996
    At 1 a.m., a few hours after the polls closed in the presidential election, several accredited journalists were barred from the headquarters of the ruling party, the Pan-Armenian National Movement, which was accused of falsifying election results in its own favor. Only those considered close to the government were allowed in. At the time both the incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossian and the opposition candidate Vazgen Manukian were claiming victory.

  • Argichtie Kivirian, free-lancer, imprisoned, September 25, 1996
    Riot police arrested Kivirian, a free-lance reporter, during clashes between police and opposition demonstrators. He was accused of taking part in the disturbances and held in Nubarachen Prison near Yerevan. On November 14, Kivirian began a hunger strike to protest his detention. He ended his hunger strike on December 5 because of deteriorating health.

Kivirian was scheduled to reappear before a court on February 7 on charges of “participation in mass disturbances.”

  • “Aik” radio program; “Alis-A” television program, censored, September 25, 1996
    Authorities suspended all broadcasting by the independent radio program “Aik” and television program “Alis-A” for several days beginning on September 25 in the aftermath of protests over voting results in the presidential elections. While the government offered no official explanation for the suspension, staff members of both programs cited their support for opposition candidate Vazgen Manukian as the motive behind the suspension. Broadcasting was resumed several days later.

  • Gagik Mkrtchian, free-lancer, imprisoned, September 26, 1996
    Ten policemen arrested Gagik Mkrtchian, a free-lance journalist, at his home on the night of September 26, 1996. They searched him before taking him to the Interior Ministry.

Mkrtchian, a leader of the opposition party Dashnaktsutiun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation), became a free-lancer after working for the Russian-language opposition daily Golos Armenii. In a statement received by Reporters Sans Frontières on October 15, Mkrtchian said his interrogators “became furious and aggressive” when he told them his name. They reportedly said: “Ah, so this is Gagik Mkrtchian of Golos who wears us out and drives us crazy. At last we’ve laid our hands on you.” Mkrtchian said, “They started to beat me severely. I do not want to describe the horrible details of that beating. I just want to stress that, according to what they said, they beat me for my articles, because I was a journalist.”

After several beatings, Mkrtchian was transferred to a cell in the National Security Ministry. He remained in great pain for several days, which made it difficult for him to either lie down or move around His three cell-mates had to take care of him “like a child,” he said. The journalist was freed on October 5 after spending 10 days in jail.

  • Ayzhm, newspaper, harassed, September 26, 1996
    The headquarters of the opposition National Democratic Union party, where the offices of the weekly Ayzhm are located, were sealed by authorities after two days of opposition street protests against alleged manipulation by the government of presidential election results. The editor, Vigen Sarkisian, and staff nevertheless managed to publish the newspaper for two months without access to the premises and technical facilities. On November 25, 1996, the NDU office was reopened, and Ayzhm resumed its normal operations.

  • Vladimir Nazaryan, Russian Public Television (ORT), attacked, harassed; A1+, television company, threatened, September 26, 1996
    Defense Ministry soldiers seized a Betacamcorder from Nazaryan, the Yerevan correspondent for ORT, four days after turbulent presidential elections in Armenia, an independent observer said. Nazaryan had filed a story with his Moscow bureau on election violence. The story, aired on ORT’s prime-time evening news program “Vremya,” described how the Armenian opposition stormed the parliament building on Sept. 25 to protest ballot-box tampering.

When Interior Ministry police returned the camera to Nazaryan 10 hours after it was confiscated, Defense Ministry soldiers on the scene immediately grabbed him, beat him, and then returned him to his office, warning him not to file such reports. A Defense Ministry major told Nazaryan that he should not have filmed tanks on the streets. The major warned another television company, A1+, which shared studios in Yerevan with ORT, that it could suffer reprisals as well if it did not “keep in line.”

  • Various media, attacked, September 26, 1996
    Government forces attacked several journalists, including a cameraman from the Noyan Tapan news agency and a cameraman with the Russian television channel RTR, on the night of September 26 in the aftermath of clashes between police and supporters of opposition presidential candidate Vazgen Manukian. At least 12 journalists were injured and many were sprayed with a water-cannon while trying to cover the opposition rallies, which protested alleged election-rigging by the incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossian. After the clashes, soldiers seized a camera from a British photojournalist working for the Armenian agency Gozalian and the destroyed the film inside.

  • Mikael Hayrapetian, Erevanian Orer, attacked, March 7, 1997
    Two unknown individuals entered the Yerevan office of Mikael Hayrapetian, editor in chief of the independent newspaper Erevanian Orer, and demanded that he stop publishing the newspaper. When Hayrapetian refused, one of the men assaulted the editor, hitting him repeatedly in the head, while the other blocked the entrance to his office. The assailants then threw the journalist to the ground before leaving. Hayrapetian was admitted to a hospital two days later when his condition worsened, with cerebral shock, serious damage to his eyesight, and cuts on his forehead.

  • Gayaneh Arakelian; Tigran Harutiunian; Zhanna Krikorova, Noyan Tapan, harassed, June 18, 1997
    Harutiunian, general manager of the Noyan Tapan news agency; editor in chief Arakelian; and Krikorova, a reporter, were summoned to the Ministry of Interior and National Security. Ministry officials pressured the journalists to reveal the source of a June 16 article about the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Harutiunian told officials that Krikorova was the author of the dispatch; a Noyan Tapan official told CPJ the agency does not conceal authors’ identities. Harutiunian and Arakelian spoke with ministry officials for several hours but refused to reveal the source of the news. Krikorova, who was detained in the ministry for about seven hours, suffered some physical and mental distress.

On June 27, CPJ sent a protest letter to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian condemning administrative pressure on journalists to reveal sources of information.