An independent Armenian newspaper on Friday stopped law-enforcement authorities from detaining and questioning one of its correspondents who has reported on alleged corruption in the Defense Ministry.
In an extensive article published by the “Zhoghovurd” daily late last week, the journalist, Knar Manukian, looked into bribery charges levelled against two ministry officials arrested earlier this year.
She quoted their lawyers as saying that they falsely incriminated themselves after being beaten up and intimidated by senior officers from the Armenian military police as well as the chief of Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian’s personal security service, Sergey Hayrapetov. They implied that the arrested men were prosecuted after exposing Hayrapetov’s involvement in corrupt practices.
Military police officers on Friday attempted in vain to detain Manukian for questioning from her Yerevan apartment. The journalist refused to obey their orders at the urging of the “Zhoghovurd” editor, Taguhi Tovmasian, and other colleagues. The latter quickly arrived at the scene along with representatives of the office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman.
“I don’t allow Knar to follow you,” Tovmasian told the law-enforcement officials. They left the scene moments later.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Tovmasian said that the day after the publication of the article in question Manukian received a written summons from Armenia’s Investigative Committee. She said the summons was illegal because it did not specify whether the law-enforcement body wants to question the “Zhoghovurd” reporter as a witness or suspect.
“Therefore, I, as her editor-in-chief, rejected that summons and replied in writing that we won’t allow our journalist to go the Investigative Committee because she has not been given any legal status,” said the editor.
Just like her boss, Manukian accused the authorities of trying to intimidate and prevent her from writing more articles about the corruption case.
In a statement issued later in the day, the Investigative Committee said it simply wants to investigate the allegations contained in the “Zhoghovurd” report. It insisted that its written notification did make clear that Manukian will be questioned as a witness and can show up for interrogation with a lawyer.
“It was expected that the author of the article will be interested in a proper legal evaluation of the claims made in the report,” read a committee statement.