Ambushed: Attack on journalist raises concerns over safety of profession in Armenia

Ambushed: Attack on journalist raises concerns over safety of profession in Armenia

An ARMENIA Today news website coordinator was assailed and badly beaten early on Thursday

По словам врачей, жизнь Кивиряна вне опасности
A brutal attack on a journalist only days before the World Press Freedom Day marked on May 3 raised more questions over how safe the profession of journalism is in Armenia.

Police launched a criminal investigation following an attack on Argishti Kiviryan, a coordinator of the ARMENIA Today news agency, who was severely beaten on his way home from work in the small hours of April 30.

Kiviryan, 36, is now at the resuscitation unit of the “Erebuni” medical center. Doctors say his condition is serious but stable.

The incident occurred near the entrance to his building at #9 Nalbandyan Street. Three unknown individuals reportedly assailed and severely beat Kiviryan causing him serious head and face injuries. Kiviryan’s wife, Lusine Sahakyan said they heard also gunshots but fortunately Kiviryan did not sustain any gunshot wounds.

Sahakyan, who is a lawyer, believes that what happened to her husband has mostly to do with his activities as a professional journalist, and she promised to answer the question whether or not there had been prior pressures after verifying this with her husband. (ARMENIA Today online is known for its opposition stance, while Sahakyan was a defense lawyer for an oppositionist, former deputy prosecutor-general Gagik Jhangiryan in a case related to post-election developments.

A forensic examination has been appointed and criminal proceedings opened in the case, details are being clarified, according to a police report.

Journalist and media freedom expert Mesrop Harutyunyan said to ArmeniaNow that any manifestation of violence deserves condemnation, moreover, when it is violence against a lawyer or a reporter.

To double-check the information about violence against the journalist, the rapid reaction group of the Ombudsman’s Office visited the “Erebuni” medical center as well, but they didn’t manage to talk to Kiviryan, either.

“Kiviryan’s wife informed us that the incident was most likely linked to his activities as a journalist. His wife refrained from giving any other details,” Grigori Grigoryants, a spokesman for the Ombudsman’s Office, said.

Eleven NGOs and journalistic organizations issued a statement in connection with the incident, condemning another act of violence, demanding that the law-enforcement bodies identify and punish those responsible.

“Resolving issues by means of beating and violence is turning into a serious public threat, and the state bodies are not taking efficient steps to resist that. The fact that those who have attacked reporters are not standing trial today is an eloquent proof of that,” the statement says.

Ombudsman Armen Harutyunyan is also concerned over the fact that there are no tangible results on the part of the police in the process of resolving cases of violence against journalists.

His office issued a statement “condemning this very dangerous and vicious practice of expressing disagreement. Taking into account the fact that almost all cases of violence against journalists committed in the past have not been disclosed and the atmosphere of impunity leads to new violence, the ombudsman calls upon the Police to take all necessary measures in order to identify those responsible for this violence.”

Media organizations say the number of violent attacks against journalists has risen significantly in recent years making journalist a ‘dangerous profession’ in Armenia.

The annual report on ‘Violations of Mass Media and Journalists’ Rights in 2008’ states that in comparison with the period of the 2003 elections, in the 2008 elections cases of violence and pressures increased about three times. In 2003, cases of physical violence against journalists were seven; in 2008, 18 cases were registered; and “pressures and hindrance of journalists’ work” nearly doubled, from 25 in 2003 to 48 last year.