The journalists reporting the demonstration going on for five days after the July 17 armed attack on the police station in the Yerevan district of Erebuni have been attacked. Police officers hindered the journalists’ professional activities, hit and beat them, seized their video camera’s memory card, and threatened them.
On July 18, a police officer in the midst of detaining demonstrators hit Azatutyun (RFE/RL’s Armenian service) journalist Artak Hambardzumyan.
On July 21, a group of civilians attacked iravaban.net journalist Gevorg Tosunyan, who was covering the demonstration, and took his video camera’s memory card. In the journalist’s opinion, the people who attacked him were plainclothes police officers.
Azatutyun (RFE/RL’s Armenian service)
“On the afternoon of July 18, police officers on Movses Khorenatsi St. detained citizens, a few of whom were sitting under the trees of the neighboring park and a few, on the grass. The police officers came, immediately took everyone —without any justification or mentioning a reason. They were simply putting them in [police] vehicles and taking them.
“When the next round of detaining ended, we journalists approached the police officer directing the actions there to ask why those people were detained.
“The police officer who gave the order to detain the citizens was located behind the wall of police officers. And the officers who formed the wall weren’t allowing us to approach their leader, and we were trying, in any case, without passing them, to ask our questions. And the leader was responding from the back.
“When I once again asked the officer in charge why they’re detaining people, does he have justification, one of the police officers in front (he’s seen in the video, the officer wearing glasses) grabbed my microphone and said something, I no longer remember what. I tried to free the microphone, to pull it back. At that moment he punched me in my stomach.
“When the officer in charge, who wasn’t there at the moment of the blow, came back, I said your subordinate did this; he said he didn’t, though he wasn’t there [to witness the incident]. The officer who hit me continued to serve in the following days in the same place.
“That is, the publication [i.e. the video] meant nothing to the police, though it was obvious there was the fact of hitting there. The officer struck a journalist and holding my microphone was obstructing a journalist’s work, which is prohibited by law.
“After publishing the video of the incident, one of the police officials called me and said, you know, they lost a commander, they’re tense, upset. It wasn’t an official response; they’d called and were simply trying to convince in a ‘friendly’ way. They were trying to explain that the situation can be understood. But of course, I consider such explanations unfounded.”
“The night of July 20–21, at around 3–3:30 am, I was covering the action at Movses Khorenatsi St. During that time, several young people came running toward us from Tigran Mets Avenue and said that the situation on Tigran Mets Ave. was tense.
“I went to cover it, and I noticed that under the bridge on Tigran Mets Ave. police forces were standing in a row, and about 20–30 meters away from them were 6–7 activists whom I had seen during the action at Khorenatsi. In front of them in greater number were people in civilian clothes, who were throwing bottles at the activists.
”I filmed that process, I also filmed those people in civilian clothes. Since I didn’t understand very well what was happening, I approached those people in civilian clothing. They were unfamiliar to me. One of them called me and said, ‘Come, come. It’s safe here.’
“I joined their ranks, and they began to tell me, ‘Don’t film, don’t film.’ I saw they were aggressive, I turned off my camera and wanted to leave. But a few of them approached me and said, ‘Delete it, give us your chip [memory card].’ They surrounded me, 6–7 people, demanding I give them my chip. I initially refused, but they threw me to the ground. I said, ‘Ok, I’ll give you the chip,’ and I felt a few people start to hit me in the back.
“These people weren’t satisfied with my giving them the chip. I said I’ll give them the chip, but they had thrown me on the ground and continued to hit me. I was in shock because it seemed to me that they wanted to harm me: their goal wasn’t just to get the chip; it was to hinder my work.
“When they threw me to the ground, the camera fell. When I got up, I saw that the camera was in one of their hands. I said to return it. They said, ‘Give us the chip or we’ll hit you again.’ Under threat, I gave them the chip and left. When I was leaving, some of them were pursuing me, saying, ‘Is there maybe something else? Are you filming? Look now, don’t come to any more demonstrations, otherwise we’ll hit you again.’
“I believe those people were plainclothes officers. I’d never seen them before at demonstrations. They were quite aggressive and they were throwing bottles at demonstrators, on those participants whom I had seen previously. They didn’t want their faces to be seen, they were aggressively demanding not to film and were threatening me to no longer go to demonstrations. All this is grounds for me to believe that they were police officers.
“I’m now going for a medical examination. A little while ago, I reported the crime to the Erebuni police division and talked about the violence used against me and the obstruction of journalism activities.”
Dear colleagues, you can send your stories of experiencing violence and being detained to [email protected].