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An Armenian journalist on Wednesday claimed to have been assaulted and verbally abused by a parliament deputy while covering a National Assembly session in Yerevan.

Vahe Makarian, a correspondent for the “Hraparak” daily, said Ruben Hakobian was angered by his questions about his current political ties when they spoke in a parliament corridor.

“I was going to explain something to him,” said Makarian. “But before I could utter a word he swore at me and punched me in the face. Frankly, I didn’t think that we were going to brawl, rather than talk, in the National Assembly.”

Hakobian declined to deny or confirm the violence when he commented on the incident. “He acted like the worst hooligan,” he said of the reporter. “He said ‘you are violating ethics rules and I will teach you a lesson.’ I realized that I’m talking not to a journalist but a thug.”

“He probably didn’t like the teaching lesson given by him and he’s now complaining about that,” Hakobian told journalists.

Asked whether he indeed punched Makarian, the lawmaker replied: “If there was something illegal, he can file an appeal and clarify things in a legal manner.”

Armenia -- Journalist Vahe Makarian speaks to colleagues in Yerevan, 7Dec2016
Armenia -- Journalist Vahe Makarian speaks to colleagues in Yerevan, 7Dec2016

Makarian, whose left eye was visibly swollen, said he has not yet decided whether to lodge a formal complaint with law-enforcement authorities or the Armenian parliament’s Ethics Commission.

Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, expressed serious concern at the incident later in the day. “I hope that all details [of the incident] will be objectively ascertained as soon as possible … I will spare no effort to prevent more such incidents in the future,” he said.

“Nothing can justify violence against a journalist performing their professional duties,” added Tatoyan.

Hakobian, 60, was elected to the parliament on the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party’s ticket in 2012. He was the party’s deputy chairman at the time. He quit Zharangutyun last year.

Hakobian was previously affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

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