YPC Weekly Newsletter

2002


THE MANAGEMENT OF "ABOVIAN" TV COMPANY ASSAULTED

On August 24, at the editorial office of "Abovian" TV company (city of Abovian, Kotayk region), the founder of the TV company Artashes Mehrabian and the Executive Director Azniv Chizmechian were beaten by a group of strangers. The assaulters motivated the violence by "unauthorized" shooting of a trade stall owned by one of them. Then they took the tape with the material shot and a video camera away from the studio. In an hour the camera was returned without the tape.

The next day the investigator who visited the editorial office offered Azniv Chizmechian to go to the interior affairs department of Abovian. According to Ms. Chizmechian, at the Department the city Mayor Karo Israelian, accompanied by one of the offenders, poured threats to the address of the Director of the TV company and her sons. The representatives of the Interior Department started correcting the statement filed by her and made every effort to protract the forensic examination to be made. On the same day Ms. Chizmechian sent a complaint to the RA Minister of Interior Affairs Haik Harutiunian, and later left the city in fear for the life of her children and her own.

On August 30 at a press conference in Yerevan the Director of "Abovian" TV placed the responsibility for the incident on the head of the Abovian municipality, whose activity is strongly criticized by the TV company. As Azniv Chizmechian noted, the relations between the editorial office and Karo Israelian became especially tense after on April 4 the Mayor made insulting remarks about some local entrepreneurs on the air of the TV company. The latter ones filed a suit and won the process. The TV company gave an extensive coverage to the whole issue.

The head of the Abovian administration himself denies his partiality to the harassment of the management of the TV company, yet he does not conceal his discontent with its policy.

The incident became the focus of attention of not only the Armenian public, but also the diplomatic missions and international organizations, accredited in the country. On August 29 the Ambassadors of a number of European countries and the representatives of OSCE Office in Yerevan visited Abovian, where they met with the city administration and the management of the TV company.

On September 3 Artashes Mehrabian and Azniv Chizmechian issued a statement where they voiced their distrust towards the Abovian Interior Department in charge of the investigation. The authors of the statement emphasized their confidence, "especially since one of those who exercised violence on us, TV company employees, Nver Davtian, is a relative and, most probably, the protege of the Abovian Mayor Karo Israelian". The violations made by the investigative bodies are illustrated in particular with the fact that the results of the forensic examination have not been received yet, and the founder of the TV company has not been recognized the injured party. Because of the situation in place, the statement says, on September 2 Artashes Mehrabian and Azniv Chizmechian addressed the RA General Prosecutor with a request to put an investigative body of Yerevan in charge of the case and ensure an objective and thorough investigation.

The observers link the Abovian incident to the elections to local administration bodies, scheduled for October this year. The idea is substantiated by the sad statistics of the previous pre-election campaigns that started long before their official announcement. It is also important to note that the majority of the journalist harassment cases still remain "undisclosed". What will happen this time?