Municipal Vote: Attacks against opposition activist, journalist disturb mostly calm election campaign in Yerevan

Municipal Vote: Attacks against opposition activist, journalist disturb mostly calm election campaign in Yerevan

The generally peaceful campaign ahead of the May 5 municipal elections in Yerevan has been overshadowed by the recent cases of violence against one of oppositional online media reporters and an Armenian National Congress activist.

On Tuesday, April 23, during a campaign meeting of the incumbent mayor, representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Taron Margaryan, reporter Hakob Karapetyan was assaulted when he tried to video record, before Margaryan would arrive, how balloons were being taken out of a Yerevan city public minibus. A group of young people approached Karapetyan and demanded that he stop recording, and when he refused the person in charge of the organization of the meeting reportedly bullied him and delivered several blows. The person was later identified as a Republican, Yerevan city council member and now candidate Ashot Papayan, better known by his nickname of Turbo. The video camera was taken away from the reporter and returned after all the files had been deleted. The reporter claims there were police officers nearby, but they did not interfere.

Margaryan’s headquarters have provided no comment on the incident, and the police have stated that the circumstances are being investigated.

Republican Party lawmaker Margarit Yesayan, a former reporter, has condemned the violence.

“Nobody has the right to hinder a reporter in his professional duties. I hope the incident will be investigated and solved, and that the wrongdoer will be justly punished regardless of who he is and which political force he is affiliated with,” she stated.

The Ombudsman’s office has also strictly condemned the actions of people who resorted to violence against the reporter and stated its intention to follow the case to “give an adequate assessment to this incident and its legal consequences by means and timeframe provided for by the law”.

A day before the assault against the reporter, on April 22, Alexander Hakhverdyan, an opposition Armenian National Congress activist, was beaten up and suffered a concussion as he was canvassing in a Yerevan suburb. A group of young people approached the ANC activists campaigning for their party in the Ajapnyan community and told them they had no right to campaign in their district. ANC members claim the young people identified themselves as Republicans.

It is noteworthy that in its comments regarding the incident the RPA did not deny that the alleged assault had been carried out by its members. The headquarters only said it “condemns any kind of violence and urges all the political forces to continue to run their campaigns in a civilized manner”.