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Angry Mob Assaults Armenian Lawmaker, Threatens RFE/RL Bureau Following Nagorno-Karabakh Truce


The incident at RFE/RL's bureau in Yerevan happened in the early hours of the morning of November 10, when protesters also stormed government buildings and parliament (pictured).

YEREVAN -- Armenia's ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, has condemned the violence by protesters amid unrest triggered by the signing of a Russian-brokered agreement with Azerbaijan to end fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tatoyan said in a statement on November 10 that an attack on parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, and a subsequent incident involving about 40 men who swarmed the bureau of RFE/RL's Armenian Service (Azatutyun) in Yerevan threatening journalists was "unacceptable."

"Violence against Ararat Mirzoyan is unacceptable and deserves all condemnation, especially as he had a child with him," Tatoyan said in the statement.

"The attack on the Yerevan office of Radio Liberty should be condemned. According to the information at this time, there was an attempt to attack the property and equipment of the media, and there was also an attack on media personnel," the ombudsman added.

The November 10 announcement of a Russia-brokered truce to end fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians in the enclave has threatened to spark a political crisis in Armenia, where angry protesters stormed government buildings and parliament.

The mob later rushed RFE/RL's bureau, calling the broadcaster's Armenian Service "traitors" and "Turks" in a tirade against the government over what they perceive as a surrender in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"You are responsible for the deaths of my friends [in Nagorno-Karabakh]," one of the attackers charged.

Others said they wanted to destroy Azatutyun's computer servers to keep journalists from going on the air.

RFE/RL acting President Daisy Sindelar said that what happened at the Yerevan bureau was "a reprehensible assault on the essential duty of journalists to serve as impartial witnesses during major news events."

"Our Armenian Service, Azatutyun, is one of the few media outlets in Armenia that has aimed to present all sides of a deeply divisive conflict. We call on the police and public alike to support the right of Azatutyun and all independent journalists to report the news, objectively and in full, without threat of violence or scapegoating," Sindelar added.

The Union of Journalist of Armenia also strongly condemned the attacks and any threats against media.

Artak Hambardzumian, an executive producer with RFE/RL's Armenian Service, said he identified one of the men as Gerasim Vardanian, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), one of nearly two dozen political parties that are demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation.

Hambardzumian said the men tried to break the door to the bureau and attack him and a cameraman.