Interior Ministry Interrogates Reporters

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Hayots Ashkhar)–Armenia’s Interior and National Security ministry Wednesday interrogated three Noyan Tapan news agency correspondents after they reported on the new proposal for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. The agency staged a one-day protest strike against the government action–asserting that freedom of press laws were violated.

"We demand from the president of Armenia- the guarantor of the citizens’ constitutional rights- to protect journalists from governmental pressures and enable them to conduct their job without any obstacles," Noyan Tapan reporters stated in an announcement read during a press conference Friday.

Noyan Tapan director Tigran Harutunian–executive editor Gayane Arakelian and correspondent Janna Grigorova were called into the Interior and National Security Ministry for questioning on the source of the agency report on the proposed peace agreement brought forth by the latest mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group.

Upon their arrival at the ministry–the three journalists were placed separated with Harutunian being ordered to appear before the highest level ministry officials. Grigorova reportedly returned to the news agency seven hours later in extreme duress and showing signs of a possible heart attack.

This incident is the third such violation of press freedoms. The Molorak and Jamanak newspaper reporters were also recently interrogated by the ministry.

"This should sound an alarm for all journalists–since no one is protected from the possibility of similar pressures," stated the Noyan Tapan reporters–who urged the members of the press to unite in establishing mechanisms to protect journalists’ rights.

Representatives of the Sakharov Foundation–Human Rights Watch/Helsinki and Armenia’s National Press Club all expressed their support for Noyan Tapan and the proposed initiative.

The correspondents explained that the ministry was in violation of Article 25 of Armenia’s constitution which states that the media and reporters are not obligated to reveal their sources–except when they are subpoenaed by court.

Responding to reporters–the Noyan Tapan correspondents did not rule out the possibility that their colleagues–Grigorova–was forced to sign a document prior to her release. Noyan Tapan officials explained that the Grigorova’s emotional condition was such that they were unable to address those and other issues prior to the press conference. The Noyan Tapan correspondents added that any document that was obtained under mental or emotional pressure did not have any legal basis and it could only be used to blackmail the signatory or the parties involved.

The Noyan Tapan officials expressed that laws governing the powers of the national security ministry were non-existent–thus a legal evaluation for this blatant violation was impossible.

More than 40 members of the Armenian and international media were present during the press conference–as were members of Armenia foreign diplomatic corps.

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