By Karine Kalantarian and Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s state human rights defender and leading press freedom advocacy groups condemned on Thursday a reported attack on the editor of a major local newspaper and demanded that law-enforcement authorities identify and punish its perpetrators.
Hovannes Galajian of the “Iravunk” bi-weekly critical of the Armenian government claims to have been beaten up by two unknown men outside his Yerevan home on Wednesday. He says the attackers resembled the notorious bodyguards of wealthy businessmen close to the government.
Armen Harutiunian, the human rights ombudsman, referred to the incident as the latest in a series of violent acts against Armenian journalists which he said are “dealing a serious blow to our country’s reputation and the freedom of speech in Armenia.” “The September 6 attack on ‘Iravunk’ editor Hovannes Galajian is yet another condemnable act against press freedom,” he said in a statement.
Harutiunian urged the Armenian police track down the attackers and be “more consistent” in tackling such crimes.
“We condemn yet another act of terror against a journalist and demand from the law-enforcement bodies to identify and punish its masterminds and perpetrators,” read a separate statement jointly issued by six media associations and human rights groups. They said Galajian’s alleged beating was made possible by the authorities’ failure to properly investigate attacks reported by other journalists in recent months.
The police, meanwhile, launched a criminal investigation into the incident after questioning Galajian on Thursday. The editor claimed that he received the previous night a threatening and abusive phone call from an man who refused to identify himself.
According to some newspaper reports, Galajian and his staff suspect that the violence may have been the result of a recent “Iravunk” article that attacked and derided Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. The latter scoffed at such suggestions, saying that he does not want to comment on “idiocies.”
“I don’t fight against or punish wretched people,” Sarkisian told reporters, referring to the editor. “I just ignore them.”
(Photolur photo: Hovannes Galajian.)