CCTV footage appeared on social media on Thursday evening showing Arshakian approaching Paylak Fahradian, chief editor of the Irakanum.am news website, who was sitting at a table in one of Yerevan cafes, and hitting him in the face in the presence of at least five other customers, including the journalist’s colleague.
Another video showed that some time before that the journalist approached the minister, who was having a lunch at another table downstairs, and talked to him for about a minute recording the conversation on his telephone.
Fahradian later said he had asked why the minister was having his lunch at a café during working hours when he was supposed to be at work.
As seen on the video, Fahradian then left, going to his table upstairs. Minutes later Arshakian followed him upstairs where the incident took place.
The journalist said he was injured in the attack and his notebook was damaged. He claimed the minister also threatened him before the attack.
In a Facebook post later on March 18 Arshakian implied that his reaction was to the journalist’s swearing at his family.
“Every citizen has the right to the inviolability of private and family life. Any member of our society, be he an official or a journalist, is first of all a person with emotions who is especially sensitive to issues related to his family,” the minister wrote.
Saying that he is against any violence and is guided by the principle of settling disputes with “civilized methods”, Arshakian apologized to those citizens who witnessed the incident and “whose peace I disturbed with my actions.”
“I am ready to bear the responsibility for the incident,” the minister concluded.
Earlier, the Prosecutor-General’s Office said it had forwarded the report from Fahradian about the attack to the Special Investigative Service.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s spokesperson Mane Gevorkian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday that Arshakian’s dismissal was not considered at the moment.
Meanwhile, leading media organizations have called the behavior of the minister unacceptable, demanding that the authorities condemn it.