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Journalists attacked at various polling stations

(GDF/IFEX) - At a news conference on 2 June 2009, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPJ) listed the instances of interference with journalists' professional activities as recorded during the latest election of the Yerevan Elders' Council (a local self-government body).

At polling station 9/01, the bodyguards of National Assembly deputy Levon Sargsyan, swearing and resorting to force, ousted the journalists Goar Veziryan (from "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" newspaper), Tatev Mesropyan (from "Hayk" neswpaper) and Marine Kharatyan (from "Zhamanak" newspaper). In the process, they gave Veziryan several kicks and confiscated Kharatyan's voice recorder.

At polling station 8/01, Arthur Ovakimyan, a freelance reporter for the
newspaper "Haykakan Zhamanak", had just started taking pictures of young men intending, according to him, to slip additional ballot papers into the ballot box. The young men ran up to him, tearing away his camera and confiscating his reporter's badge.

Told by Ovakimyan that he was doing his professional job, one of the
attackers snapped: "My job is to break your head." The journalist was
compelled to leave. His camera was returned later without the memory card.

At 4:20 p.m. (local time) two dozen young skinheads were seen entering polling station 8/05. According to reporter Armine Avetyan of the newspaper "168 Zham", six of them grabbed her and Sonya Ayvazyan, an observer from Transparency International, by their clothes and began to push them aside towards the windows, while others encircled the ballot box and shoved several stacks of unauthorized ballots into it.

They threatened Avetyan and took away her photo camera. They also used force against Lilit Tadevosyan, a correspondent for the web portal, pushing her back and preventing her from using her camera.

Similar incidents occurred at polling stations 8/20 and 13/09. At polling
station 7/25, Nelly Grigoryan of the newspaper "Aravot" was attacked while attempting to take a picture of a young man nicknamed "Boko of Noragyukh" speaking with a representative of the Armenian National Congress.

According to Grigoryan, the young man grabbed her by the hands, tore away her camera and left. The camera was later returned without the memory card.

Representatives of CPJ stressed that they had other facts at their disposal signaling attempts to interfere with journalists' professional work.

The office of Armenia's Prosecutor General has published a press release saying that it has been ordered to "monitor compliance with the established procedure of analyzing information, including media publications, about violations of the voting rules". It also announced the institution of legal proceedings in connection with reported attacks on journalists and observers, as well as throws-in of unauthorized ballots into ballot boxes at polling stations.

The Special Investigations Service of the Republic of Armenia had been
appointed to investigate those incidents. Criminal proceedings had been
launched in connection with the attack on journalists at polling station
9/01, the press release said.

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