In the early morning of April 1 in Goris (Syunik region) the Niva car, owned by the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper Samvel Alexanian and parked in his yard, went on fire. Criminal proceedings were instituted on the fact of the car ignition.
On April 1 the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” released an address to the RA President Robert Kocharian, Armenian media, diplomatic missions accredited in the country, international and journalistic organizations, Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan Vladimir Pryakhin. In his letter Samvel Alexanian qualified the incident as “yet another display of unleashed terrorist actions of the Syunik Governor against “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper”. The reason for the incident, in Alexanian’s opinion, was his interview to “Novoye Vremya” newspaper (March 12, 2005), “after which the editor of the newspaper received numerous warning from the Governor through intermediaries and anonymous night calls”. In the interview the Chief Editor was telling about the continuing pressure on him and his family from the representatives of the local authorities, in particular, the Governor of Syunik region Suren Khachatrian.
The Governor himself publicly denied all the accusations to his address and said he would punish Samvel Alexanian in accordance with the law.
Earlier, the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” was the press-secretary of the Syunik Governor and was dismissed from this position in late September, 2004. The dismissal led to vacating the premises that the newspaper occupied in the building of the regional administration. On October 13, 2004 at the editorial office of his newspaper, located at one of Kapan hotels, Samvel Alexanian was assaulted by the Chairman of “Syunyats Artsivner” (“Eagles of Syunik”) NGO Khachik Asrian. Samvel Alexanian linked this incident to the number of critical pieces of the newspaper on the issues, crucial for the region (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 8-14, 2004).
As Samvel Alexanian believes, his newspaper has been announced a war in Syunik region. “The pressure on the newspaper and the threats to myself throughout the past six months are a consequence of the current climate in Syunik”, he said in a conversation with YPC. Samvel Alexanian also informed that the case of the attack on him on October 13 is currently being heard by the court of primary jurisdiction of Syunik region; however, he is not taking part in the process. This refusal is explained by the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” by his discontent with the materials of the preliminary investigation. In the course of the investigation Samvel Alexanian addressed the General Prosecutor’s Office of Armenia with a petition to challenge the investigative group of the Syunik regional department of the RA Police, which, in his opinion, is under the pressure of the Governor, the Prosecutor of the Syunik region and the bodies of state administration. Upon the order of the RA General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian, the case was transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office of the neighboring Vayots Dzor region. Yet, Samvel Alexanian stressed, the change of the investigative body did not yield the expected results: “Having familiarized myself with the materials, I had the impression that a totally different incident was investigated.”
The defendant on the case of attacking the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” Khachik Asrian, on his behalf, addressed the Police of the Syunik region, petitioning to institute criminal proceedings against Samvel Alexanian. The reason was the above mentioned interview to “Novoye Vremya” newspaper, in which, in the opinion of Asrian, the Chief Editor libeled him, saying that some time ago he was dismissed from law enforcement bodies for public disorder and has a conviction for theft.