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Armenian Media Groups Demand Journalist's Release

Nikol Pashinian

Nikol Pashinian

Armenia's leading media associations have demanded the immediate release of a young reporter arrested while covering an opposition protest in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Police allege that Ani Gevorgian, a 23-year-old correspondent for the pro-opposition daily "Haykakan Zhamanak," assaulted a police officer during a confrontation between security forces and opposition activists trying to enter Yerevan's Liberty Square on May 30.

Gevorgian was detained on May 31 during another confrontation between police and opposition supporters in the same area.

One of Gevorgian's lawyers, Lusine Sahakian, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that she is accused of hitting a police officer in the face.

"Ani Gevorgian did not hit anyone," said Sahakian. "We think that she was deprived of her freedom because of her journalistic activities."

"Just how a 23-year-old woman could have used force against police officers remains unclear," six Armenian media groups said in a joint statement on June 1. They demanded the Armenian police immediately release Gevorgian and punish "the policemen who exceeded their legal powers."

The statement further condemned the brief detention of two other journalists during the May 31 incident when police used force against several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).

"Haykakan Zhamanak" denounced its reporter's prosecution as an act of "personal revenge" by the chief of Armenia's national police, Alik Sarkisian.

The newspaper's managing editor, Hayk Gevorgian, linked it to a recent article in which Gevorgian had ridiculed a promotional police video carried by Armenia's leading television stations.

"Ani found the clip was very ineptly duplicated from a similar video produced by the Georgian police, and that the whole purpose of the clip was to advertise Alik Sarkisian," the editor told a news conference.

"Haykakan Zhamanak," which is Armenia's best-selling daily newspaper, has long been at loggerheads with the authorities.

Its outspoken editor in chief, Nikol Pashinian, is currently serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence for his alleged role in the 2008 postelection unrest in Yerevan. The HAK and local human rights organizations consider Pashinian a political prisoner.