What and whom the Armenian Police protects

Noyan Tapan Highlights #14(516)
12 April 2004

What and whom the Armenian Police protects
By Haroutiun Khachatrian

The opposition parties’ April 9 rally was expected to become the most
prominent event of the last week in Armenia. However, it may well turn out
that the unexpected clashes at the April 5th meeting of Artashes Geghamian
with his supporters will get more attention.

In short, a group of persons started to throw eggs toward Geghamian during
his more than an hour-long speech. The journalists tried to catch those
people by their photo and video cameras, a natural decision, especially
given the fact that egg-throwing, a new ‘element’ in the political processes
of Armenia, was believed to be organized by pro-Kocharian forces to provoke
disorder at opposition meetings. The reporters were attacked by the same (or
maybe other, but linked to them) people. At least four cameras were broken,
including that of the state-owned Public TV. Several reporters, including a
woman, Anna Israelian of Aravot daily, were beaten. Kentron independent TV
was the only one to have managed to save its tape showing several of those
attacked (you can see them on this page).

What is the most alarming is the apparent protection of these assailants by
police. As many witnessed, the police was obviously aware about the presence
of these men (presumably the bodyguards of some business tycoons close to
Kocharian) on the spot. Moreover, police would not interfere even after
those suffered attack applied to them.

There are other facts showing that the Armenian police is not willing to
protect freedom of information. Noyan Tapan has its own experience on that
matter. On October 30, 2000 the tapes of our and other TV companies were
bluntly taken by unknown people, when the cameramen shoot the scene of
arrest of Arkady Vardanian, a Moscow businessman trying then to organize a
popular movement aimed to topple Kocharian. Police officers standing nearby
refused to intervene. One more factor to prove the above mentioned is that
five days of protests (including those of international agencies such as
OSCE) passed before the police initiated a criminal case for “hooliganism”
abou the April 5th events. Meanwhile, one can remain many cases when our
law-enforcing agencies were much quicker in discovering and prosecuting the
people (including innocent ones) if there was a political motivation for

To conclude, the Armenian media community is not strong and united enough to
force the authorities to discover those, responsible for that humiliating
events. So I am not optimistic concerning the prospects of this criminal