By Hovannes Shoghikian
An Armenian opposition newspaper was rocked by an explosion early Thursday which its editor-in-chief linked to its hard-hitting and often derogatory coverage of the government.
An explosive device planted at the entrance to the Yerevan offices of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” (Fourth Estate) reportedly went off at around 4:30 am, seriously damaging the two entrance doors. Nobody was inside the premises during the blast.
“We did not notice any loss of property,” Mher Ghalechian, a “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” journalist, told RFE/RL. “They probably quickly planted the explosive device and left the scene in haste,” he said of the attackers.
Ghalechian also said that police officers arrived at the scene later in the morning to conduct forensic tests and look for possible clues. As of late evening the police did not issue any statements in connection with the incident, which could add to rising political tensions ahead of Armenia’s presidential election scheduled for February 19.
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun,” which is published twice a week, is staunchly supportive of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and hostile to Armenia’s current leaders as well as pro-government and even some opposition leaders. The paper routinely derides them in its articles and trademark cartoons.
The “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” editor, Shogher Matevosian, claimed that her staffers recently received “threats” from Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s chief bodyguard and driver and a local government chief. Matevosian said the bodyguard, known to journalists as Vacho, warned her parliamentary correspondent that Sarkisian supporters are increasingly annoyed by “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” cartoons and that the prime minister may no longer be able to keep them from assaulting her or her colleagues.
Matevosian also claimed that Mher Sedrakian, the controversial mayor of Yerevan’s Erebuni district, phoned the paper and swore at one of its employees in response to a derogatory “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” article about him. “So right now I have two suspects, who are not particularly different from each other: Vacho and Mher Sedrakian,” she told RFE/RL.
Matevosian is among five pro-Ter-Petrosian activists who were arrested and are now prosecuted for resisting police orders during an October demonstration in Yerevan dispersed by security forces. The activists were released from police custody after Ter-Petrosian’s personal intervention.