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Armenian Police Condemned For Injuring Journalists During Protest

Armenia's leading media associations on Thursday strongly condemned riot police for injuring at least a dozen journalists during Wednesday's clashes in Yerevan with protesters demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.

Armenia - A stun grenade fired by police explodes during an anti-government protest in Yerevan, June 12, 2024. [Photo by Vahram Baghdasaryan, Photolure]

They suggested that the police deliberately targeted reporters and cameramen who covered the protest on a street adjacent to the Armenian parliament building.


During scuffles that broke out there, security forces hurled dozens of stun grenades into the crowd, injuring at least 83 people who required medical aid in hospitals. According to law-enforcement authorities, 18 policemen were also hurt.


Vazgen Yetumian, a cameraman with the News.am online news service, suffered a broken leg as a result of one or multiple grenade explosions. Also injured were two other cameramen, Narek Hayrian of Civilnet and Hovsep Hovsepian of Armlur.am.


"Although there were no protesters around me at that point, several explosive devices exploded right next to me," Hayrian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service.


"I had a vision blackout and felt unwell," he said. "My leg got hit and I fell down."


Journalists were also injured during another, less serious scuffle that broke out at the same location earlier on Wednesday. They included ABC Media reporter Nane Hayrapetian and her cameraman Arman Gharibian. Doctors suspect that they both suffered a concussion.


"Ignoring the fact that I had a 'press' inscription on my shirt and ABC written on my back and my cameraman carried a badge and a camera, the police literally trampled us underfoot," said Hayrapetian.


Another ABC Media crew that replaced the duo was injured in subsequent stun grenade explosions.

"We condemn the police's use of brute force against media representatives, and unprofessional, uncalculated actions that led to serious consequences," read a joint statement released by nine Armenian press freedom groups.


"From a number of videos as well as a photo by the Photolur news agency, it is clear that stun grenades were also directed at journalists and operators standing in a place where media cameras were concentrated," it said.


The signatories expressed serious concern at the fact that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his allies have unequivocally defended the police actions "without waiting for the results of their analyses." They demanded that the Interior Ministry investigate those actions and "hold accountable the officers who abused their powers."


The ministry announced no such inquiry as of Thursday evening. Echoing Pashinian's statements, Armenia's Investigative Committee blamed the protesters for the "mass disturbances" and said it has identified 40 persons involved in them. An opposition-linked lawyer said earlier in the day that 28 protesters arrested during the violence remain in custody and risk criminal charges.

 

(c) 2024, "Free Europe/Freedom" radio station

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