Unknown intruders broke into the empty offices of an Armenian newspaper and caused havoc there on early on Thursday in what its editor denounced as an attempt to bully her and her staff.
“This is an attempt to obstruct our professional activities,” said Knar Manukian, the editor of the “Zhoghovurd” daily. “The criminal or criminals checked all of our drawers, caused disorder but did not take away anything.”
“My office room … is a complete mess,” she told reporters. “All boxes were opened. I don’t know what they looked for or whether they found anything.”
In Manukian’s words, the intruders did not steal computers or cash kept in one of the office drawers.
“I think they looked for information but they did so in a way which primarily carried a warning,” said Taguhi Tovmasian, the newspaper’s founder who is currently a parliament deputy representing the ruling My Step alliance.
Tovmasian suggested that the intruders sent the “Zhoghovurd” staff a message to the effect that “we can enter the editorial officers and take any information from it whenever we want.” The overnight break-in therefore constitutes a serious threat to press freedom in Armenia, she told reporters.
Tovmasian and Manukian spoke shortly after police inspected the “Zhoghovurd” offices in Yerevan and assessed the damage caused to it. The police did not immediately make any statements on the intrusion strongly condemned by Armenia’s media freedom and opposition groups.
The incident occurred just days after Manukian was again questioned by the Special Investigative Service (SIS) in connection with leaked testimonies by ex-President Serzh Sarkisian and other former officials interrogated over the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
“Zhoghovurd,” which also runs the Armlur.am news website, obtained those testimonies and published excerpts from them early this year, prompting SIS claims that the revelations are illegal. Manukian accused the law-enforcement agency at the time of pressuring her publication.
The newspaper editor revealed on Thursday that immediately after her latest interrogation she complained to Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, about the “violation of my rights” by the SIS and “asked him for protection.” She did not elaborate.
Manukian also claimed that on “numerous” occasions law-enforcement authorities have demanded that “Zhoghovurd” disclose sources of its articles containing details of various investigations conducted by them. She said she therefore suspects that the break-in may have been an “illegal search” conducted by them.
Tovmasian did not rule out such a possibility. “This can be one of the theories,” said the former journalist.