Armenia: Photographer assaulted After taking pix of official’s villa



New York, August 25, 2004 – Armenian photojournalist Mkhitar Khachatryan was
assaulted after photographing the opulent homes of government officials in
the central Armenian resort city of Tsakhkadzor yesterday, according to
local and international press reports.

Khachatryan, with the news agency Fotolur, and Anna Israelyan, a
correspondent with the independent daily Aravot, were reporting on damages
caused to Tsakhkadzor forests by housing construction. Khachatryan
photographed villas belonging to high-level police and government officials,
the Armenian Service of the U.S. – funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
(RFE/RL) reported.

A man guarding a mansion that purportedly belongs to Armen Yeritsyan, deputy
chief of Armenian national police, approached the two journalists while
Khachatryan was taking photos of the building. The guard ordered Khachatryan
to stop photographing and the journalists left the area, according to the

The guard, accompanied by several other men, later spotted Khachatryan and
Israelyan at a café in Tskhkadzor. One of the men beat Khachatryan, causing
bruises to his neck and arms, and threatened to kill the photographer,
RFE/RL said.

Israelyan and Khachatryan were forced to surrender the photo storage card
containing Khachatryan’s photos, local reports said.

In an article published in Aravot today, Israelyan gave a first-person
account of the attack and described the pair’s efforts to report on the
effect of home construction on the forests. The newspaper ran blank frames
with captions where the destroyed photographs were supposed to run.

“CPJ calls on Armenian authorities to investigate the beating of our
colleague and bring the man who attacked him to justice,” CPJ Executive
Director Ann Cooper said. “We urge officials to ensure that journalists in
Armenia are able to do their jobs without fear for their safety.”


Violence against journalists in Armenia escalated this year. Security forces
and plainclothes men beat reporters covering opposition rallies on April 5
and April 13.

In the first incident, local police stood by while two dozen men in civilian
clothes smashed journalists’ cameras, assaulted several reporters and
destroyed filmed footage of an April 5 opposition rally in Yerevan. (See
CPJ’s alert from April 6.)

In the second incident, three journalists from opposition newspapers and a
cameraman with the Russian television channel ORT were beaten by police at
an April 13 opposition rally in Yerevan, organized to call for a referendum
on President Robert Kocharian’s rule. (See CPJ’s alert from April 13).