Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter – 04/15/2004


APRIL 9-15, 2004








On April 12 in Yerevan, the procession and rally organized by opposition
forces near RA National Assembly ended up in violence. The rally
participants demanded negotiations with Speaker of Parliament, Head of RA
Police, as well as live TV broadcasting for opposition leaders and live
reports of the event. Most probably, this demand provoked heavy guarding of
the TV companies buildings by the police in the capital that day.

At about 00:30, street lights went off on Baghramian Avenue, and at about 2
am, the picket was dispersed by police units using special devices – water
jets, explosive bags, rubber bludgeons, electroshock.

In the official April 13 statement of RA Police, the actions of the rally
participants were qualified as illegal, aggressive and uncontrollable,
presenting real threat to life and health of police and the citizens. It
induced law and order bodies to use physical force and special devices
against them in accordance with RA Law “On Police”. The police declared
about initiating criminal proceedings for organization of these public

Among the victims (according to official data, medical care was provided to
30 people), again were journalists similarly to the meeting of opposition
deputies with the voters a week ago (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 2-8,
2004). The evidence of the journalists, as well as their colleagues on the
spot contradict the official version of the events on early morning of April
13: picket participants were not aggressive, “some of them even settled for
the night”, therefore it may be viewed as an action planned by the

That night “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily correspondents Haik Gevorgian and
Avetis Babajanian, as well as cameraman of Russian ORT TV in Armenia Levon
Grigorian and “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper correspondent Mher
Ghalechian were beaten while on duty.

According to “Haikakan Zhamanak” correspondent Haik Gevorgian, Deputy Head
of RA Police Hovhannes Varian (who, by the way, controlled the forces
keeping law and order during the April 5 rally) personally took his photo
camera away, whereas the policemen nearby started beating the journalist
with their bludgeons and feet. Afterwards, Haik Gevorgian was transported to
the police department of Nor Nork community, and later to one of Yerevan
hospitals. At present, Gevorgian receives treatment at home.

Avetis Babajanian was not as seriously injured as his colleague and was also
taken to the same police department.

ORT cameraman Levon Grigorian’s story was that civilians approached him and
tried to take the camera away (later the damaged expensive equipment was
discovered at police press service). These persons dragged the resisting
journalist to the group of special forces who started beating him with
batons using electroshock. It is only in an ambulance that Levon Grigorian
recovered consciousness.

“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” correspondent Mher Ghalechian was exposed to
violence at about 3 am, when the journalist, on the instructions of the
editorial office, investigated into the data on the search at opposition
“Republic” Party headquarters. According to Ghalechian, he was about to
leave after taking pictures when he was assaulted by four representatives of
special forces. He was beaten, and later taken to the police department of
Erebuni community where he was detained for 16 hours.

During the raid to the headquarters of another opposition party – Popular
Party of Armenia – its press secretary Ruzan Khachatrian was arrested. The
law and order bodies broke open the door of her private office and escorted
her with beating to the police department of Center community. On April 14,
Ruzan Khachatrian was released.


On April 13, Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia and Committee
to Protect Freedom of Expression made a statement condemning violence
against media representatives.

“On early morning of April 13, journalists were also among the victims of
the rally dispersed by police forces on Baghramian Avenue in Yerevan.

Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia, Committee to Protect
Freedom of Expression state that law and order bodies have not yet revealed
and punished the perpetrators of April 5 violence against the journalists.
Moreover, this time the police themselves used force towards journalists on
their duty: several media representatives were exposed to beating; their
equipment was snatched away or crashed.

We once again stress that impeding journalist activity by any person even
the police is criminal offence.

We condemn this display of violence and declare that we will be consistent
in our demands, namely to track and punish, on Article 164 of RA Criminal
Code, the persons using violence against the journalists on both April 5 and
April 13 early morning, as well as to compensate the damage caused to the
media”, the statement of three journalistic organizations runs.

Committee to Protect Journalists also appealed to the Armenian authorities
“to investigate these attacks against our colleagues and bring those
responsible to justice”.

Repeated violence against media people on duty was condemned by a number of
local journalistic associations.

The April 14 statement of CE Secretary General Walter Schwimmer expresses
concern over anti-democratic decline in Armenia and stresses the necessity
for dialogue among all political forces. “There is incomplete and
conflicting news of excessive use of force by the police, of arrests –
including of members of parliament – and of a media blackout. This confirms
one thing: if there was complete freedom of the media, we would have a clear
picture of the situation”, CE Secretary General notes.

“Haikakan Zhamanak” initiated a peculiar action. In April 14 issue, the
daily accompanied all materials devoted to the events with the same photo of
RA Police Deputy Head Hovhannes Varian. Besides, the newspaper reported that
it intends to file a petition to General Prosecutor’s Office for bringing
him to criminal responsibility.


Criminal proceedings are started on violence against media representatives
during the opposition rally on April 5, RA Police press secretary Sayat
Shirinian informed Yerevan Press Club. The journalists were attacked by a
group of “strong guys” when trying to shoot the scene of egg throwing at
rally participants (see detail in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 2-8, 2004).

The proceedings were instituted on Article 258, Point 2 of RA Criminal Code
(“gross violation of public order with extreme cynicism”). According to
Sayat Shirinian, the case is in execution at RA Police investigation


On April 9 in Armenia, broadcasting of Russian NTV channel was interrupted.
On April 8, the sound disappeared, whereas the next day there was no
picture. “Paradise” company (retransmitting NTV) accounts for disappearance
of the Russian channel from Armenian air by technical reasons – mainly
transmitter problems.

Meanwhile, there is an opinion that technical obstacles were not accidental
but induced by NTV’s covering of the opposition rallies in Yerevan. An
indirect proof of this may be the last year’s blocking of NTV in similar
situation. The broadcasting was interrupted on February 26, 2003 and resumed
only on March 17 – in hardly two weeks after the second round of
presidential elections (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 15-21, 2003). This
time, even AATV satellite network subscribers were deprived of NTV programs.

Mysterious disappearances from air afflicted several programs of Armenian TV
companies. In particular, on April 9 “Burg” program of “Yerevan” TV was no
longer on air. Previously, “Tesankyun” program on “Kentron” TV was shut.


On April 9, Chief Editor of “Urartu” newspaper Iosif Verdyan suddenly passed
away. Starting journalistic activity in 1969, Iosif Verdyan worked in local
media, for many years he was correspondent of several Moscow publications,
prize-winner of “Golden Pen” Award of Journalists Union of Armenia.

Yerevan Press Club expresses deep condolences to the relatives of the

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Editor of YPC Newsletter – Elina POGHOSBEKIAN
Yerevan Press Club
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375007, Yerevan, Armenia
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