Two persons have been arrested on suspicion of assaulting journalists during the violent dispersal late last month of a demonstration held in support of opposition gunmen occupying a Yerevan police compound, an Armenian law-enforcement agency said on Wednesday.
The journalists, among them three RFE/RL correspondents, were ambushed and beaten up by a large group of men armed with sticks late on July 29 as riot police forced demonstrators to flee the Sari Tagh neighborhood overlooking the besieged compound.
Human rights activists have suggested that the attackers were plainclothes officers or government loyalists. They have also accused the police of using excessive force against the protesters.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said it has identified 20 reporters and cameramen injured in the Sari Tagh violence. Seventeen of them have already been questioned by SIS investigators, the law-enforcement body said in a statement.
The statement said two individuals were arrested on Wednesday as part of the probe. It did not identify them, saying only that they could be charged with obstructing the work of journalists through an act of “collective hooliganism.”
The SIS added that it is now trying to identify more attackers. It also urged other “presumably injured” journalists to come forward and cooperate with the SIS investigators.
President Serzh Sarkisian publicly apologized to the journalists assaulted in Sari Tagh on August 1, the day after the gunmen surrendered to security forces. At the same time, he urged them to “forget about those incidents,” saying that the authorities will draw “all necessary conclusions” from the violence.
Sarkisian’s assurances were met with skepticism by independent Armenian media and press freedom groups.
On Friday, 14 police officers were formally reprimanded by the national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, including for their failure to prevent the July 29 violence against journalists. One of them, Ashot Karapetian, was sacked as head of Yerevan’s police department on Monday.