By Karine Kalantarian
The editor-in-chief of one of Armenia’s best-selling newspapers claimed to have been attacked and beaten up on Wednesday by well-built men resembling the notorious bodyguards of government-connected wealthy businessmen.
“After I left home in the morning two young men with shaven heads attacked me from behind, toppled me to the ground and began kicking me, mainly trying to target my head,” Hovannes Galajian of the “Iravunk” bi-weekly told RFE/RL by phone. “When other people came out of the building they immediately fled.”
“They didn’t say anything. They were silent. They didn’t even swear at me,” he said, adding that he immediately reported the incident to the police and will undergo a medical examination by forensic experts on Thursday.
Galajian said he believes that the alleged attack was in retaliation for critical articles published by his paper, but would not specify “Iravunk” reports that might have angered influential individuals. “We have trodden on many toes and the pool of suspects is very broad,” he said.
“Iravunk,” which is linked to a small opposition party, is known for its hard-hitting coverage of the Armenian government and its loyalists. Galajian’s description of his alleged attackers matches the appearance of about two dozen thugs that tried to disrupt an April 2004 opposition rally in Yerevan and attacked photojournalists and cameramen who filmed their actions. Media reports at the time said the well-built men work as bodyguards of “oligarchs” supporting the ruling regime.
Galajian was among the editors of Armenia’s leading newspapers who issued a joint statement last July expressing serious concern about what they described as a growing harassment of journalists critical of the government. The statement cited in particular a June attack on a freelance journalist whose news reporting allegedly infuriated a local government chief in Yerevan.