YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today said journalists’ safety must be ensured at all times, following coercive actions by police against journalists covering public protests in Yerevan.
“Media has the right to cover public events and journalists must be able to report in a free and safe manner, without fear of harassment and intimidation,” Mijatović said.
On June 23, journalists from various media outlets were reportedly mistreated, verbally assaulted and detained by police when covering a public demonstration in Yerevan against the increase of electricity tariffs scheduled to take effect on August 1. Some journalists also had their equipment damaged or seized.
“I call on the authorities to promptly investigate these incidents and take steps to ensure restraint on the part of law enforcement representatives toward members of the media,” Mijatović said.
The US Embassy in Armenia issued a statement on the June 22-23 protests in Yerevan:
We were encouraged by the responsible and generally respectful behavior by both protestors and police on the evening of June 22 during the protests over the planned rise in electricity prices. Freedom of speech and assembly are fundamental rights in any democracy, and we were pleased to see both sides work in a manner that respected these rights and did not escalate tensions.
However, we are concerned about reports of excessive police use of force to disperse the crowd on the morning of June 23, as well as several reports of abuse while in police custody. In addition, we are troubled by reports that journalists and their equipment were specifically targeted during the operation. It is imperative that the Government conduct a full and transparent investigation of reports of the excessive use of force by the police to the full extent of Armenian law.