Armenia’s leading media and rights organizations have expressed strong concern over what they call a “new wave of violence against freedom of speech” in the country.
A joint statement points out that five Armenian journalists have been the victims of violence in August alone. Those targeted include four correspondents from pro-opposition newspapers, as well as Hrach Melkumiam, the acting chief of the Yerevan Bureau of RFE/RL's Armenian Service.
“We are sounding the alarm that violence against the media has already reached a dangerous boundary and representatives of the authorities must do more than just expressing abstract concerns and making calls," the statement says. "They must take effective steps in order to ensure that all those who committed violent acts and illegalities are found and punished."
The statement is signed by the Yerevan Press Club, the Committee for the Protection of Freedom of Speech, the Institute of Comprehensive Information, the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, the Vanadzor Press Club, and Gyumri’s Asparez Club of Journalists.
The Union of Journalists of Armenia has also raised its voice, calling on the authorities "to act quickly to identify and punish those responsible."
Melkumiam was attacked on August 18 by an unknown assailant who repeatedly beat him while denouncing RFE/RL's programs. Melkumian sustained broken teeth and bruises to his head and back.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has ordered a prompt investigation into the attack.