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Armenia26 August 2004

Photographer assaulted in the north of the country

Photographer Mkhitar Khachatrian, of the PhotoLur agency was assaulted after taking photos of politicians’ private holiday villas in Tsaghkadzor in the north of the country.

Reporters Without Borders called on Armenia’s prosecutor-general Aghvan Hovsepyan to do everything possible to track down and punish those responsible.

Khachatrian and Anna Israelian, of the independent daily Aravot, were working on a report on the destruction of the forest caused by house-building in the region.

They were photographing private homes, chiefly belonging to parliamentary deputies, on 24 August when a guard ordered them to stop. The journalists refused to comply.

The same evening the guard, accompanied by a group of thugs, found the pair in a local café. One of them struck Khachatrian and threatened to kill him. He then ordered him to hand over his camera containing shots of the villas, and the photographer handed him the disk.

Assaults on journalists have escalated since the start of the year. On 5 April several journalists were manhandled on the sidelines of a demonstration while security forces looked on. In June, two of the assailants were fined about 150 euros in connection with the assaults. Security forces beat up two more journalists at a demonstration on 13 April.

In its letter to the prosecutor general, the international press freedom organisation stressed that, "Coming after the incidents in April it would be dangerous to all journalists if a climate of impunity were allowed to take hold".

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