On October 8, the RA Investigative Committee (newly established independent investigative body, not subordinated to any governmental institution) announced on its Facebook page about the initiation of a criminal case on the incident between Taguhi Hovhannisian, correspondent of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily, and Artyusha Karapetian, the leader of the Armenian community of Kazakhstan.
As we have reported, the incident took place in Yerevan on September 19, near the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, where the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Forum kicked off on the same day. According to “Haikakan Zhamanak”, Taguhi Hovhannisian approached Artyusha Karapetian with some questions regarding the Forum, to which Karapetian responded normally. However, when the journalist asked Karapetian to comment on the recent publications in the Armenian press, where representatives of the Armenian community of Kazakhstan are criticizing the work of Artyusha Karapetian as the community leader, Karapetian grabbed the recorder from the journalist’s hands and threw it away. When Taguhi Hovhannisian tried to take a photo of the head of the Armenian community of Kazakhstan with her mobile phone, Artyusha Karapetian ordered his bodyguards to “get rid” of the journalist. One of the bodyguards, whose badge read “A. Abrahamian”, seized the journalist’s phone and returned it after deleting all the photos she had taken, wrote “Haikakan Zhamanak”. On September 22, six journalistic organizations issued a statement condemning the aggressive behavior of the head of the Armenian community of Kazakhstan. The media NGOs demanded the RA Prosecutor’s Office to consider their statement along with the press publications on the incident, as a report on the crime and take appropriate measures to bring the perpetrators to justice (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 22-28, 2014). Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in her letter to RA Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, expressed hope that the attack on Taguhi Hovhannisian would be duly addressed by law enforcement agencies (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 29 – October 5, 2014).
According to the information posted on Facebook page of the Investigative Committee, the criminal case was initiated on the basis of complaint by Taguhi Hovhannisian, submitted to Kentron Police Department of Yerevan on October 3. The case deals with violation of Clause 1 of the Article 164 of RA Criminal Code (“Obstruction of legitimate professional activities of journalist”). The preliminary investigation is carried out by territorial division of the Investigative Committee.
It is noteworthy that this time the investigation of September 19 incident is not conducted by the RA Special Investigation Service, whose decisions in cases of obstructing journalists’ work had been sharply criticized by local and international organizations, but by the newly created institution, whose activities are regulated by a special law. Time will tell how professionally and impartially the Investigative Committee will handle its first case dealing with the media.