By Ruzanna Stepanian
Yet another editor of an Armenian newspaper has had his car seriously damaged by fire in what seems to be becoming a pattern in Armenia.
Police in Yerevan were investigating on Friday the apparent arson attack on an expensive SUV belonging to Ara Saghatelian, the owner and editor of the “Im Iravunke” weekly. A brief police statement did not say if anyone is suspected of involvement.
Saghatelian said his Nissan Extra burst into flames shortly after he parked it outside the newspaper office in the city center. “About ten minutes after I walked into the office I heard the sound of the car alarm,” he told RFE/RL. “I went out and saw the car burning.”
“We put out the fire with neighbors’ help,” he said, adding that they found the remnants of three Molotov cocktails at the scene.
Saghatelian, who also owns a news website, linked the incident to his media outlets’ news coverage which is often critical of various government and law-enforcement bodies as well as some government-connected businessmen. “In all likelihood, it had to do with the work of my media outlets because I have no other area of activity,” he said without elaborating.
The incident occurred just over a week after a similar arson attack that completely destroyed a car belonging to Suren Baghdasarian, the editor of an Armenian sports weekly. The expensive vehicle had already been targeted by arsonists one year ago.
Similar attacks have also been reported by the editors of the outspoken Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” and a regional weekly that was at odds with the controversial governor of the southeastern Syunik province. Cars belonging to them were burned down in November 2004 and March 2005 respectively. Nobody was prosecuted in connection with those incidents.
Saghatelian is better known as a close associate of Justice Minister David Harutiunian, having worked as the latter’s spokesman until July last year. Media reports suggested last summer that Saghatelian quit the Justice Ministry to concentrate on Harutiunian’s participation in this year’s parliamentary elections.