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Armenia2 May 2003

Alarm sounded about increasingly frequent physical attacks against journalists

Reporters Without Borders today voiced alarm about the increasingly frequent use of violence against journalists in Armenia, in which the latest victim, Mher Galechian of the twice-weekly opposition newspaper Chorrord Ishxanutiun, was badly beaten by two men on the afternoon of 29 April. He was hospitalised with head injuries but was not in a critical condition.

The authorities say they are investigating the attack, which took place inside the newspaper’s offices in Yerevan. The two assailants had visited the newspaper three days earlier to complain about a report in the previous day’s issue accusing Karlos Petrosian, the head of the Armenian security services, of building a villa with funds of questionable origin. On the day they returned to beat up Galechian, the newspaper had just published a report mentioning their visit.

"We are very worried about the situation of press freedom in Armenia, which has worsened sharply in the past months," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. He noted that the Reporters Without Borders correspondent in Erevan, Mark Grigorian, was the target of a grenade attack in October, that the chairman of the state-owned TV broadcaster, Tigran Naghdalian, was gunned down two months later, and at least five journalists were attacked during the presidential elections in February.

"Now Mher Gelechian has been attacked just because feathers were ruffled by an article about a senior official," Ménard added, calling for a thorough investigation to be pursued until those responsible are found and punished.

The organisation deplored the fact that impunity now seems to be the norm in these attacks against opposition journalists, noting that the investigation into the 22 October attack against Grigorian was closed in February without any suspect ever being questioned.

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