A group of journalists and film-makers working for Finnish television was held up at Yerevan airport and denied entry into Armenia on Friday for reasons that the Armenian authorities refused to publicize.
Andrius Brokas, an executive producer at Finland’s YLE public television and radio network, said immigration officials at the Zvartnots international airport refused to issue visas to the four-member TV crew without any explanation.
“Somebody whispered to them that they have been banned from entering the country and that they are going to clarify the situation,” Brokas told RFE/RL’s Armenian service from Helsinki.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry confirmed the information but did not give any reasons for the ban. Its spokesman, Tigran Balayan, argued that the ministry’s consular services issue visas only outside Armenia.
The Armenian police and National Security Service (NSS), which manages the Armenian border crossings, also refused to explain why the Finnish, Lithuanian and Estonian nationals were denied entry into the country. It was not clear if they were still kept at Zvartnots or deported as of late evening.
Brokas told RFE/RL that they flew to Yerevan to produce a report on Armenia for a YLE morning show.
But in a separate written statement , Brokas said the group was commissioned by YLE to collect material for a documentary on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and, in particular, the 1992 killings of Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly village. He condemned the visa rejection as “an open defiance of European values of open access to information.”