On April 30, at 3 p.m., Media Center hosted a discussion-press-conference “Violence against Reporters in Election Period”. Speakers included Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Gevorg Hayrapetyan, lawyer at the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia, reporters Hripsime Jebejyan (www.aravot.am), Hakob Karapetyan (www.ilur.am) and Elina Chilingaryan (www.azatutyun.am), whose professional duties were obstructed in the election period.
Ashot Melikyan, chairman of the Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression is convinced that the forthcoming municipal ballot can create tensions and challenging situations for reporters, as elections here usually stand out for cases of violence against reporters.
“Currently, mainly oppositional media reporters suffer, and that's natural, because they ask undesirable questions and write critical articles. In the election period the number of stooges grows, wanting to show their masters that they are useful, but end up doing them a ‘bad turn’”, he says.
Reporter Hripsime Jebejyan, who was subjected to violence on April 9, tells how one of the policemen grabbed her by the kidney area and pushed her so hard her shoe fell off, then she fell, scratching her arm against a tree and hurting it.
“When an incident happened to a Public TV reporter, there was a court trial and the reporter won the case. When it comes to oppositional reporters, the chances to win are miniscule. That is why I did not even turn to the judicial system, knowing that they will suspend the case,” says Jebejyan.
RFE/RL correspondent Elina Chilingaryan has learned firsthand that violence against reporters does not get adequate punishment in court.
“It was during the parliamentary election. I didn’t have time to grasp what was happening, when a young man came up and hit my camera. As the police clarified later, that “poor guy” was not party-affiliated, hence no witnesses were questioned and the case was suspended,” recalls Chilingaryan.
Gevorg Hayrapetyan, lawyer at the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia, says that even knowing that the judicial system might not rule in reporter’s favor, they have to appeal as many times as it takes to make them understand how much resources and time can be wasted on simply going from court to court.
Reporter Hakob Karapetyan, form ilur.am online newspaper, who has recently been subjected to violence, says he is going to fight till the end.
“I was recording how campaign flags were being distributed by RPA representatives. I introduced myself and quietly explained that my actions were within the law. Regardless, they approached me, hit me, and took away my camera. A short while later they returned it in a plastic bag – I suppose not to leave fingerprints. Ashot Papyan, who hit me, is still enjoying freedom. I assume he denied his guilt, and the police are not carrying our proper investigation of the case. If they are trying to shut our mouths, then we have to open our mouths even wider,” says Karapetyan.
The reporters stated that in spite of difficulties they will continue fulfilling their professional duties during the municipal ballot.
You can watch the full video following this link.