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Armenia4 March 2003

Presidential election: concern about violence against journalists

Reporters Without Borders today urged Armenia’s electoral authorities to ensure that tomorrow’s presidential election run-off is not marred by incidents similar to those in the first round on 19 February in which journalists were the targets of violence and obstruction.

"We ask you to do everything possible to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the second round on 5 March," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Artak Sahradian, the president of the electoral commission. "We point out that, while the media must adhere to strict rules to avoid favouring any candidate during an election, the authorities for their part must ensure that journalists are free to cover the polling," Ménard said.

Goar Vernizian, a correspondent of the weekly Aizhm, which is published by the Democratic National Union Party, was thrown against the wall of the Shirvanzade school polling station by unidentified individuals on 19 February as she was covering violations of the electoral rules. Her assailants also seized the audio cassette on which she was recording. Two journalists with the TV station Shant were hit and their video tapes were taken as they filmed a man stuffing ballots into a ballot-box in the same polling station.

The same day in Yerevan, a member of the parliamentary commission of voting station No. 356/16 in Nar-Dos school seized the camera of freelance journalist Susanna Pogosian and injured her hand as she was accompanying Gedeon Lichtfield of the British weekly The Economist.

Lilit Vardanian, the person in charge of electoral commission No. 26/073 in Echmiadzin (20 km. from Yerevan), refused to allow Karina Asatrian, a reporter with the independent TV station A1+, and her cameraman Robert Kharazian to film. The two journalists were then physically attacked by young men who damaged their camera and chased them out of the polling station.




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