Armenian Police Vow to End Attacks On Journalists

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian law-enforcement authorities are doing their best to stop periodical attacks on local journalists mostly critical of the government, a senior police official claimed on Friday.

Colonel Hovannes Tamamian, head of the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the national police service, also said he believes the authorities should go as far to allow Armenian reporters to carry guns.

“I believe that an educated and clever person must have the right to possess a weapon,” he said, answering a question from a female journalist. “Let a criminal know that a girl like you has a gun that she can take out and fire from. I am not against that.”

Tamamian was speaking at a news conference held less than two days after the beating of a prominent television journalist, the second such incident in just over a week. Both Nver Mnatsakanian of the private Shant TV and Argishti Kivirian, editor of the Armenia Today news agency, were attacked by unknown assailants just outside their Yerevan homes. Kivirian suffered particularly severe injuries and was hospitalized as a result.
Armenia’s leading media associations and civil rights groups have strongly condemned the attacks, saying they were made possible by the authorities’ failure to punish the perpetrators of previous instances of violence against journalists.

“This has become one of the main issues at the center of our daily attention,” said Tamamian. “We will do everything to fight against this vicious type of crime.” At stake is not only the security of journalists but also the professional reputation of Armenian law-enforcement bodies, he said.

Tamamian confirmed that Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) has taken over the criminal investigation into Kivirian’s beating from the police. But Kivirian’s wife, Lusine Sahakian downplayed that fact, saying that the investigation continues to be conducted under an article of the Criminal Code that deals with assaults resulting in “light bodily injuries.”

“I don’t believe that this case will be thoroughly and objectively investigated,” Sahakian told RFE/RL. She insisted that the April 30 attack was an attempt on her husband’s life.

According to police data cited by Tamamian, a total of 17 Armenian journalists have been physically assaulted since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Only one of those cases, involving a state television reporter, has been solved by the police in full. The reporter, Tatevik Nalbandian, was hit by an opposition protester while covering an opposition rally in Yerevan in November 2005.

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