Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter – 04/08/2004


APRIL 2-8, 2004







On April 5, during the meeting of “National Unity” opposition party leaders
with the voters, organized in one of Yerevan downtown streets, young people
of strong build and boxer cut started to throw eggs at the orator and those
assembled. In some spots, objects of petard type exploded at people’s feet.
The journalists covering the meeting tried to record the incident, however,
they were attacked immediately: the “strong guys”, divided in groups,
started to use violence against media representatives and to shatter their

As a result, physical, material and moral damage was caused to the media and
journalists. Cameras of “Kentron”, “Hay TV” private channels and Public
Television of Armenia newscasts were broken, similarly to the one by
cameraman of “National Unity” party. A cameraman of another private TV
company, “Shant”, had the incident video record snatched away.

Photocorrespondent of “Hetq” online of Association of Investigative
Journalists of Armenia, UK citizen Onik Grigorian, “Aravot” daily
correspondent Anna Israelian and “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily correspondent
Hayk Gevorgian were exposed to attacks and blows. All the three had their
photo cameras crashed. The 17-year-old resident of Aghartsin village, Armen
Tamrazyan, attempting to protect the journalists, was seriously injured.

Earlier on April 5, “Haikakan Zhamanak” correspondent was hampered in his
professional activity. Hayk Gevorgian was detained in the town of Ashtarak
during the photo shooting on the highway leading to Yerevan and blocked by
the police. According to the journalist, an hour-long “instructive
conversation” on legal issues was conducted with him at local police

The rally in the capital was heavily guarded by the police. According to the
eyewitnesses, their administration, in particular Deputy Head of RA Police
Hovhannes Varian were also present. However, none of the guards interfered
in the incident with the journalists.

On April 6, Head of Yerevan Police Department Nerses Nazarian declared at
the briefing devoted to April 5 events that the police forces were ordered
to step in only in case of emergency. Given Colonel Nazarian’s refusal to
answer the questions, it was impossible to find out whether the acts of
violence towards journalists might be viewed as “emergency”? Meanwhile,
Yerevan Police Head asserted that materials on the incident were in
preparation stage.

We earnestly hope that this time at least law and order bodies will be able
to finally track and punish the perpetrators. For the exception of the
disclosed murder of the Chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio
Company, Tigran Naghdalian, all the rest numerous acts of violence towards
the journalists still “hang in the air”. Only a single circumstance, too
obvious by itself, gives a week chance for hoping that those guilty of April
5 incident will nevertheless be punished. The evening broadcasts of
“Kentron” TV repeatedly showed the scene of the “strong guys” dealing with
one of the cameramen. Several photos of the attackers were also published by
a number of newspapers. According to various opinions,
egg-throwers/camera-breakers are bodyguards of high rank officials and

The statement of “Hetq” photocorrespondent Onik Grigorian, a victim of the
incident, in particular expresses indignation at the coverage of the events
by Public Television of Armenia placing “all blame on the opposition” and
the police that kept out. After a blow in his face, the journalist “turned
to the police for help but they did not care to interfere”.

Armenian political forces, NGOs, including human rights and journalistic
ones, as well as international organizations publicly condemned the

On April 6 upon the initiative of Yerevan Press Club, the participants of
“Civil Society in the Context of Democratic Reform in Armenia” workshop,
organized by “Partnership for Open Society” initiative (currently uniting 40
NGOs) adopted a joint statement.

The statement of the NGOs and journalists runs:

“On April 5, 2004 prior to the Yerevan meeting of “National Unity” party
leaders with the voters, the police impeded journalists’ activity on the
highways connecting the regions with the capital. During the rally,
authorities obviously connived at the violence applied: the journalists were
exposed to beating, photo and video cameras were broken, films and tapes
were confiscated and destroyed. Both hampering journalists’ work and
violence towards them fall under criminal offence.

Overt bias of certain media, even those who fell victim to the incident, in
covering the events is also to be blamed.

We, participants of the workshop, organized by “Partnership for Open
Society” initiative, strongly condemn one more instance of regular
violation of the rights for receiving and disseminating information, as well
as freedom of expression. We call upon law and order bodies to punish the
instigators and perpetrators.

We declare that if in this case as well the culprits, several of them being
known, are not punished and the damage to the media is not compensated, we
will have to state that Armenian authorities are not interested in
consolidating the basic democratic values in the country: the rights for
freedom of expression, press, travel, conducting meetings and rallies,
exchanging opinions and the right of the society for getting objective

We call on all the media, irrespective of their political preferences, to
demonstrate professional unity and to rise against the cases of violation of
freedom of expression through joint efforts.”


On April 8, presentation of “The Right to Tell. Role of Mass Media in
Economic Development” new book of Yerevan Press Club was held at Journalists
Union of Armenia. The book came out as part of “Journalist’s Library”
series. The publication is an English-Armenian translation of the homonymous
collection of articles by world economists and journalists. Financial
support for the translation and publication of the YPC book was provided by
World Bank and Open Society Institute.

During his speech at the presentation, Roger Robinson, World Bank Country
Manager in Armenia, particularly noted, “World Bank is interested in
economic development of the countries and attaches special importance to the
role of media in this process. ‘The Right to Tell’ is designed as assistance
to the journalists in covering economic problems”.


On April 6, “Civil Society in the Context of Democratic Reform in Armenia:
Agenda, Accomplishments, Failures” was held. It was organized by
“Partnership for Open Society” initiative uniting over 40 NGOs. RA National
Assembly deputies, scientists, representatives of NGOs and media of Armenia,
international organizations participated in the meeting.

The participants discussed a wide spectrum of issues related to
implementation of democratic reforms in the country: “Civil Society and the
State” (presentation by Tigran Torosyan, RA National Assembly
Vice-Chairman), “The Role of the Donors and International Agencies in
Formulating the Agenda of Civil Society in Armenia” (presentation by Dr.
Lucig Danielian, School of Political Science and International Affairs
Associate Dean of American University of Armenia), “Institutes of Civil
Society” (presentation by Dr. Gevorg Poghosyan, Director of Philosophy and
Law Institute).

In the second part of the workshop, the discussion continued in five
sections: “Media/Information”, “Human Rights”, “Rule of Law/Good Governance”
(RA Minister of Justice David Harutyunyan participated in this section),
“Social Cooperation”, “Education/Culture”.


On April 2, a procession and rally in support of freedom of expression were
held in Yerevan. They were timed to the two-year period of “A1+” without

Certain obstacles, created by the authorities to impede the initiators of
this protest action, resulted in a change of the procession route and the
venue for the rally (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 26 – April 1, 2004).
The event itself, with 400 people participating, was excess-free. At the
meeting close to the museum of ancient manuscripts – Matenadaran – the
organizers publicized their claims to the Armenian authorities: to conduct a
competition for vacant frequencies and to involve NGO representatives in the
process of rating assessments of the bidders’ competition packages.

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Editor of YPC Newsletter – Elina POGHOSBEKIAN
Yerevan Press Club
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