A correspondent for a leading opposition newspaper in Armenia was hospitalized this week after being attacked and beaten.
Lusine Barseghian of the popular daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” says she was kicked and punched by unknown men as she left her parents’ apartment block in the capital, Yerevan, on August 11.
“It was so unexpected,” Barseghian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service
. “They attacked me from behind. When I cried out and attracted people’s attention, they ran away.”
Barseghian linked the attack to her recent series of articles scrutinizing the allegedly illicit activities of influential individuals close to the government. Those included the chief of President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff, Hovik Abrahamian, tycoon Samvel Aleksanian, and the controversial mayor of Yerevan’s Erebuni district, Mher Sedrakian.
“This incident once again showed that we live in a country where mass media are not free,” said Nune Sargsian, head of the Yerevan office of the U.S. media support group Internews.
Aram Abrahamian, editor of another major Armenian daily, “Aravot,” also laid the blame on the government and, in particular, its unspecified “criminalized elements.”
“I have no doubts that it was done by some government circles,” he told RFE/RL. “Unfortunately, this was not the first or the last such incident.”
A spokesman for Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian condemned the attack.
“Everyone must understand that gone are the days when issues could be solved by force,” said presidential press secretary Samvel Farmanian.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” said the incident will not affect its news reporting.
“If they think they can intimidate us, they are badly wrong,” said Barseghian. “My next articles will be much more hard-hitting.”