Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the acts of violence against journalists during 11 days of anti-government protests in Yerevan, from 13 to 23 April, and calls on the Armenian authorities to ensure they do not go unpunished.
The peaceful outcome to this “velvet revolution” – Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation as prime minister on 23 April – must not divert attention from the fact that some violence did take place and that at least 16 journalists and media workers were attacked, mainly by police officers, while covering the protests.
“We condemn the unjustified use of force against journalists who were just doing their job,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The advent of a new era in Armenia must include abandoning such practices and combatting impunity. We urge the authorities to conduct full and impartial investigations into each of these attacks. All those responsible, whether police officers or not, must be brought to justice.”
Several journalists were deliberately targeted by police while using cameras. Alina Sargsyan, a reporter for the CivilNet.am news website, was hit by a police officer while she filmed police arresting demonstrators. Azatutyun TV producer Anatoly Egiazaryan was beaten by several policemen while filming a demonstration being dispersed.
Police damaged Factor.am reporter Vrezh Margaryan’s camera and smashed Radio Azatutyun reporter Nayra Bulgadaryan’s camera to the ground in order to prevent them from filming.
Violence was used to prevent CivilNet.am reporter Tatul Hakobyan from filming the attempted arrest of the protest movement’s main leader, Nikol Pashinyan. Public radio reporter Liana Egiazaryan was injured by a stun grenade in similar circumstances. Ani Keshishyan of 168.am and Factor.am cameraman Hovhannes Sargsyan were injured by non-lethal weapons used during clashes between police and protesters.
Violence by plainclothes police became more frequent as the protests in Yerevan grew in size. Many journalists reported being attacked by plainclothesmen. They included Ani Grigoryan of CivilNet.am, Arus Hakobiyan of Radio Azatutyun, Tehmine Yenokyan of Lragir.am and Artak Hulyan of Shant TV.
Tirayr Muradyan, a reporter for the Sut.am news website, was badly beaten on 19 April by plainclothes police who did not like being filmed. The next day, police bundled him into a car to prevent him covering a demonstration on a motorway near Yerevan. After subsequently receiving orders to release him, they returned him to the place where they had arrested him.
Factor.am editor-in-chief Arevik Sahakyan, his cameraman, Gevorg Martirosyan and public radio reporter Vruyr Tadevosyan were beaten up by unidentified individuals in different parts of the capital. In some cases, policemen looked on without making any attempt to intervene.
A group of demonstrators also stormed into the Armenian public radio broadcaster’s headquarters on 14 April, demanding to be allowed to speak on the air. A studio door was broken. The police quickly launched a criminal investigation and arrested two suspects.
Armenia is ranked 80th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.