By Emil Danielyan
An Armenian media association condemned on Monday the weekend assault on the editor of the Yerevan daily “Or,” Gayane Mukoyan, and its commercial director.
Police, meanwhile, said they are investigating the incident but have not yet made any arrests in connection with it. “The crime has not been solved as yet,” a police spokesman told RFE/RL.
Mukoyan and the “Or” director, Rafael Hovakimian, were beaten up and hospitalized with severe injuries on Saturday night. A car carrying them was reportedly blocked in the city’s Nor Nork suburb by another vehicle that had no license plates. The victims said four unknown men wearing black balaclavas came out of it and began beating Hovakimian without any explanation.
Mukoyan told a local television channel from her hospital bed that one of the assailants repeatedly punched her in the face after she tried to call police from her mobile phone.
The blows broke the editor’s nose. The photograph of her blood-stained face, taken shortly after the attack, appeared on the front-page of another newspaper, “Hayots Ashkhar,” on Saturday morning.
“The National Press Club (MAA) condemns any manifestation of violence against journalists,” the MAA said in a statement. “The editor of “Or” was the victim of the latest incident.” The club claimed that a controversial government bill on mass media passed by the Armenian parliament last week “creates fertile ground” for more such attacks.
Armenian journalists and editors have occasionally been attacked on the street for the past decade. One of them, state television and radio chief Tigran Naghdalian, was shot dead outside his parents’ Yerevan apartment last December. His murder, which prosecutors say was politically motivated, took place only two months after an apparent attempt on the life of independent journalist Mark Grigorian.
Grigorian was heavily wounded by a hand grenade thrown at him in the center of Yerevan. No one was arrested or charged in connection with that attack.
Mukoyan is the first female journalist in Armenia to have been subjected to physical abuse. Motives for her and her colleague’s beating were not immediately known. She said she believes that it had to do with her newspaper’s reporting but did not implicate anyone.
The head of the information department at the national Police Service, Sayad Shirinian, said law-enforcement agencies have launched criminal proceedings into the violent incident under an article of Armenia’s criminal code that deals with “hooliganism.” “The police are taking measures to ascertain the identity of those who committed the crime and track them down,” Shirinian said. He would not say whether the law-enforcement authorities suspect anybody.
“Or” is reputedly sponsored by Hrant Vartanian, a millionaire businessman with close ties to President Robert Kocharian. The paper, however, does not have an overtly pro-presidential orientation, frequently criticizing both the authorities and the opposition.
It earned notoriety last November after printing sexually explicit photographs featuring the editor of the pro-opposition “Aravot” daily. The move was widely condemned by the Armenian media community as a breach of universally accepted norms of journalistic conduct. Incidentally, the outcry led to Mukoyan’s expulsion from the MAA.