By Emil Danielyan
Immigration authorities in Yerevan denied on Tuesday reports that two Polish journalists covering the war in neighboring Georgia have been barred from entering Armenia because of being allegedly blacklisted by Russia.
Wojciech Jagielski, a correspondent for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, claims to have been turned back by Armenian border guards while traveling from Tbilisi to Yerevan last Thursday. A Polish news agency quoted Jagielski as saying they told him that his name is on the black list of journalists and other persons banned from entering CIS countries. “I've never written anything about the CIS states,” he said.
The alleged incident occurred two days after the other reporter, Marcin Manon of Poland’s TVP public television, claimed to have been refused entry to Armenia for the same reason. He says he was turned back at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport after disembarking from a plane which the Polish government had chartered to evacuate its citizens from Georgia.
Both reporters blamed Russia for the alleged ban. The Russian ambassador to Warsaw, Vladimir Grinin, accused the Polish media at the weekend of being biased against Russia in its coverage of the military conflict in Georgia.
The journalists’ accounts prompted concern from the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “We urge the Armenian authorities to grant access to all journalists who want to enter the country,” RSF said in a statement issued on Monday. “Journalists cannot be held responsible for their government’s policies. They are just independent observers of wars and do not participate in them.”
However, a source close to Armenia’s border guard service denied the reports, saying that no foreign journalists have been turned away from the country in recent weeks. He also denied the existence of a CIS list of “undesirable” foreigners.
Norayr Muradkhanian, head of the Armenian police’s Department of Passports and Visas, also did not confirm the reported expulsion of the Polish journalists. “I have no such information,” he told RFE/RL.