YPC Weekly Newsletter

2004


CHIEF EDITOR OF “SYUNYATS YERKIR” ASSAULTED

In the morning of October 13 in Kapan city, Syunik region, an attack was made
on the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper Samvel Aleksanian.

Samvel Aleksanian informed YPC that three men, one of which (he did not know
the other two) was Khachik Asrian, the Chairman of “Syunyats Artsivner” (“Eagles
of Syunik”) NGO, came to the editorial office, currently residing at one of
the city hotels. Khachik Asrian expressed a wish to speak to the Chief Editor
in private, and when the newspaper staff member left the room, started to question
Samvel Aleksanian as to why “Syunyats Yerkir” published critical articles on
the activities of the Governor of Syunik region and the Prime Minister of Armenia.
Not waiting for the end of the explanations, Asrian hit the Chief Editor in
the face with a fist, and then started to use the stick he had brought. Having
then devastated the editorial office, the attackers demanded that both its rooms
be vacated in an hour, threatening otherwise to continue the violence. After
this they left, taking with them the mobile phone of the Editor. Samvel Aleksanian
immediately called the Syunik Regional Department of the RA Police. The policeman
who arrived on site recorded the incident and the forensic expert made an examination
of the injured. On the evening of the same day the Police staff returned Samvel
Aleksanian the mobile telephone and informed that criminal proceedings have
been instituted by Article 258 (“Public Disorder”) of the RA Criminal Code.

On October 13 Samvel Aleksanian reported the incident to the President of Armenia,
the RA General Prosecutor, the OSCE Office in Yerevan, the media.

It should be noted that two weeks before the occurence, on September 28, Samvel
Aleksanian was dismissed from the position of press secretary of the Governor
of Syunik region Suren Khachatrian. The Chief Editor was also demanded to vacate
the offices that “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper used in the building of the regional
administration.

Samvel Aleksanian relates everything that happened to him lately to a series
of critical publications of the newspaper (entrance examinations to universities,
the unjustified downsizing of the library staffs, the closure of two secondary
schools and other subject of importance for the region).

According to “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily (October 14, 2004), the Chairman of
“Eagles of Syunik” Khachik Asrian in a telephone conversation with the regional
correspondent of the daily denied having beaten Samvel Aleksanian. He said that
he only notified the Chief Editor that the rooms the editorial office used were
rented to his organization and had to be vacated. The telephone conversation
with Khachik Asrian occurred when he was at the police station. Meanwhile, Samvel
Aleksanian informed YPC that he received no claims or documents confirming the
lease from either the hotel owner, or the Chairman of “Eagles of Syunik”.

On October 14 with regard to the attack on the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir”,
Yerevan Press Club, the Journalists Union of Armenia and the Committee to Protect
Freedom of Expression issued a statement, saying, in particular: “Apparently,
the lack of punishment in a number of recent incidents of violence against media
representatives or else the mild punishments imposed on their executors leave
an impression that it is possible to intimidate journalists, contrary to the
provision of the RA Law “On Mass Communication” that “a journalist engaged in
legitimate professional activities is protected by the legislation of the Republic
of Armenia as an individual on public duty”.

“The Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia and Committee to Protect
Freedom of Expression demand the law enforcement bodies to conduct objective
investigation of the incident and to hold the people guilty of assaulting the
journalist accountable.”

On October 14 “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” newspaper made an editorial
comment on the report of the Kapan incident: “HH” condemns the assault
on the journalists and expresses confidence that those responsible will be punished,
because the journalist on duty must feel protected.”