The Armenian police alleged earlier in the day that Ani Gevorgian, a 23-year-old correspondent for the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak,” assaulted a police officer during a confrontation on Sunday between security forces and opposition activists trying to enter Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Gevorgian was detained, along with more than a dozen oppositionists, during a similar incident that occurred there on Monday. One of her lawyers, Lusine Sahakian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that she is accused of hitting a policeman in the face.
“Ani Gevorgian did not hit anyone,” said Sahakian. “We think that she was deprived of her freedom because of her journalistic activities.”
“Just how a 23-year-old woman could have used force against police officers remains unclear,” six Armenian media groups said in a joint statement. They demanded that the Armenian police immediately release her and punish “the policemen who exceeded their legal powers.”
The statement, also signed by two other civic groups, further condemned the brief detention of two other journalists during Monday’s use of police force against several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
For its part, “Haykakan Zhamanak” denounced its reporter’s prosecution as an act of “personal revenge” by the chief of the national police, Alik Sargsian. The newspaper’s managing editor, Hayk Gevorgian, linked it to a recent article in which she ridiculed a promotional police video broadcast by Armenia’s leading television stations.
“Ani found that the clip was very ineptly duplicated from a similar video produced by the Georgian police and that the whole purpose of the clip was to advertise Alik Sargsian,” he told a news conference.
Armenia’s best-selling daily newspaper, “Haykakan Zhamanak” has long been at loggerheads with the authorities. Its outspoken editor-in-chief, Nikol Pashinian, is currently serving a highly controversial three-and-a-half-year prison sentence which he received in January for his alleged role in the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. The HAK and local human rights consider Pashinian a political prisoner.