On May 18 Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia and the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression adopted a joint statement on the incident that occurred in Vanadzor in early morning of May 16. As it has been reported, on the day the car of “Lori” TV company Executive Director Narineh Avetisian was stoned while parked by the editorial office. In the opinion of Narineh Avetisian, the incident may be related to the talk show aired in the evening of May 15 by “Lori”, dealing with the violations during the eviction of residents in one of the city areas (see details in YPC Weekly, May 12-18, 2006).
The statement of the three journalistic associations says:
“For the third time already during the year (in April 2005, February 2006 and on May 16, 2006) the Executive Director of “Lori” TV company (Lori region), member of Journalists Union of Armenia Narineh Avetisian is harassed while performing her professional duties. The indifferent stance that the local authorities, in particular, the law enforcement bodies took on the first two cases resulted in further violence. On May 16, 2006 the journalist’s car was stoned by unknown individuals. Several days have passed, however, as we have learned, the investigation has made no progress. It is hard to say whether the local law enforcement bodies are unable or unwilling to disclose the case. May the lack of disclosure be in the interests of the local administration, as violence each time followed the criticism of its activities? Otherwise how can the indifference of the local self-government bodies be explained when in their region the same journalist is harassed for the third time during a year, and the attackers are not found? We wish to remind the administration of Lori region and Vanadzor that the obstruction of the legitimate professional activities of the journalist is a criminal offence (Article 164 of the RA Criminal Code). We demand that the law enforcement bodies make an objective investigation into this and previous facts, punish those guilty, thus preventing further assaults.”
This statement was published by a number of newspapers, including "Azg" daily of May 20. In its issue of May 25 “Azg” gave the response of Vanadzor Mayor Samvel Darbinian to the statement. In the letter the Mayor noted in particular that the stoning of the car owned by the Executive Director of “Lori” TV “undoubtedly deserves condemnation, and the Vanadzor municipality is just as interested to know who the author and organizer of the action is”. At the same time Samvel Darbinian expressed his indignation “over the ungrounded attempt to blame the Vanadzor authorities for the incident”, which was perceived by the letter author to be a similar “stoning”: “Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to blame authorities for everything. In our opinion, it makes no honor to such serious organizations.” Further on, the head of municipality quotes a piece from regional “Loru Marz” newspaper, in which Narineh Avetisian speaks about the absence of her personal enemies and hostility towards the TV company itself, noting at the same time that “there are people using the occurrence and making it a subject of political speculations, impeding the investigation”. Samvel Darbinian also admits that “Lori” TV company “is in close cooperation with the municipality and the Mayor of Vanadzor” and “the cooperation continues to this day”. Samvel Darbinian’s letter ends with a request that the journalistic associations “should not make groundless statements and misinform the public”.
Noting that the response of the Vanadzor Mayor is published in full, “Azg” made an editorial comment to it: “(…) Blaming of Vanadzor authorities does not imply they are the authors of what had happened to the journalist. Our accusation is that the authorities – not only in Vanadzor – have made the lack of punishment so habitual, so few of such cases are disclosed, that the assaults on journalists and media continue unobstructed.” We do not have anything else to add to the comment of “Azg” daily.