Reporters Without Borders condemns targeted Armenian police violence against journalists at dawn yesterday in Yerevan, when the authorities used force to disperse a sit-in by large crowd of demonstrators protesting against electricity price hikes.
Police attacked at least ten journalists and almost systematically confiscated or smashed their equipment. At least 11 journalists were briefly detained.
“We are shocked by the use of such disproportionate force against journalists who were just doing their work,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“This targeted violence was clearly designed to prevent media coverage of the use of force to disperse the sit-in. We urged the authorities to punish this violation of freedom of information so that it does not recur.”
Reporters Without Borders has obtained confirmation that Garik Azibekian and Sisak Gabrielian of Radio Azatutyun (the Armenian service of RFE/RL) were attacked, as were Davit Davtian and Khachatur Esayan of Armenia TV.
PanArmenian.net said its reporter, Nicolas Torosian, was hit by police, as were the photographers Gevork Gazarian and Karo Sahakian. Three cameramen working for the 1in.am news website ¬– Karen Chilingaryan, Hovsep Hovsepyan and Gor Hovhannisyan – were also hit.
Gala TV journalist Paylak Farhadian said that, while detained, he was beaten “in the presence of Yerevan’s police chief.”
The journalists who were briefly detained included Garik Harutyunian of Radio Azatutiun, Arsen Sargsyian of Armenian News and Ani Hovhannisian and Hrant Galtsian of HETQ.
The protest against the electricity price hikes began on 19 June, when several thousand people occupied Freedom Square in central Yerevan. After failing to obtain satisfaction, they began marching on the presidential palace on the evening of 22 June but the police blocked them at Baghramian Avenue, where they spent the night.
On the grounds that their sit-in was not authorized, the police gave the protesters an ultimatum and then charged them at dawn yesterday. At least 237 arrests were reportedly made.
Armenia is ranked 78th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.