YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Three RFE/RL Armenian Service journalists were attacked by a large group of plainclothes men late on July 29, while they were covering clashes between riot police and protesters marching in support of armed gunmen who have occupied a police compound in Yerevan for the past two weeks.
In Washington, RFE/RL President Thomas Kent strongly condemned the attack. “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is outraged by this attack on journalists carrying out their professional duty,” Kent said. “We expect the Armenian authorities to bring the attackers to justice and protect journalists carrying out their legitimate work.”
The men who attacked the three journalists — Karlen Aslanian, Hovannes Movsisian, and Garik Harutiunian — were armed with sticks and metal bars, and were clearly aware that they are assaulting reporters.
Movsisian told RFE/RL by phone as he ran for safety that one of the men asked, “Are you filming” before punching Movsisian, smashing his camera and tearing off his ID badge. “I told them that I stopped filming but they kept hitting me.” Movsisian was hospitalized as a result of tear gas inhalation and pain from being hit by fragments of tear gas grenades.
The two other RFE/RL reporters also suffered minor injuries in the attack, before they were able to escape to safety by running along another street in Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood.
Armenian police spokesman Ashot Aharonian promised in a Facebook post that the police will “immediately” investigate violent attacks on journalists from RFE/RL and other media outlets covering the protests. The Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman’s office also announced that it would investigate reports that those who attacked the journalists were policemen dressed in plain clothes.