The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional organisation the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have together condemned the actions of Armenian police who attacked and briefly detained at least 10 media workers who were covering a demonstration on 23 June in Armenian capital, Yerevan. The two organisations have asked the authorities to investigate the incidents and punish the perpetrators.
According to media, at least 10 media workers were assaulted and briefly detained by police officers who destroyed phones, cameras, laptops and video equipment of many journalists. They also confiscated the memory cards of those who had filmed the crackdown against protesters. Thousands of people have been recently demonstrating in Armenia, gathering in front of the President Serzh Sarkisian’s residence to voice their anger over the increase in the electricity prices, media reported.
“After police had cleared the area, the plainclothes police came after the journalists intentionally. They came at the journalists who had been filming the crackdown and tried to grab cameras, confiscate their materials, and break all the equipment that had made videos,” journalist Sisak Gabrielian was quoted as telling Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL,) the media he works for.
According to Radio Free Europe, in addition to Gabrielian, other journalists attacked and briefly arrested included RFE/RL Armenian correspondent Garik Harutyunian; online Hetq newspaper’s reporters Ani Hovhannisian and Hrant Galstian; CvilNet TV journalist Arpi Makhsudian; Armenia TV reporter David Davtian and his cameraman Gevorg Ghazarian; Panorama.am photographer Karapet Sahakian; photographer Ani Gevorgian; Gala TV cameraman Paylak Fahradyan and cameraman Garik Azibekian, working for RFE/RL. Azibekian told RFE/RL that the plainclothes police punched him repeatedly in the face and torso and forced him to the ground, kicking both of his kneecaps. Media workers of Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Time) and online news agencies News.am, PanArmenian.net, Espress.am and Arajin.am were also assaulted while covering the demonstrations, RFE/RL added.
“We are outraged by such heavy handed action by police against journalists who were treated like criminals for covering the public exercise of the people democratic right to demonstrate,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “Press freedom in Armenia has come under direct, violent attack and we therefore urge the administration to launch a full investigation and ensure their security forces respect and enforce journalists’ rights.”
“In Armenia, violence, harassment against the media and impunity contribute to widespread self-censorship in the newsrooms”, said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. “Armenian authorities must identify and charge the perpetrators of any reported attack against journalists”.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, US and Britain embassies in Yerevan and some other international press freedom organisations have also condemned the attacks.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries