Wednesday, 26 September

Armenian Police Not Inclined to Expose Cases of Violence Against Journalists: Corpus Delicti Nearly Always Absent

Armenian police prepared materials for five cases and conducted one investigation between Jan. 1 and Sept. 9 this year on obstructing the professional duties of journalists, violence against journalists or other unlawful actions against journalists, the Armenian police press service informed Hetq.



Threats Against Journalist "Weren't Serious," Concludes Investigator

On May 7, Hetq reporter AniHovhannisyan covered the trial of SargisHakobyan, accused of abusing his wife, HasmikKhachatryan, at the Gavar residence of the Gegharkunik District Court of First Instance. After the trial, former leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Robert Aharonyan, along with his supporters, attacked Hovhannisyan and the activists supporting Hasmik.

Aharonyan supporter ArmenGhevondyan cursed Hovhannisyan and struck her camera. Court bailiffs attempted to calm Ghevondyan, but he continued, resulting in an altercation between him and the young activists. Material evidence was collected and sent to the Gavar Police Department’s Investigative Division, where a case under RA Criminal Code Article 258 Section 1 ("hooliganism") was launched on May 18, 2014.

On August 18, a decision was made to quash the case — on grounds of lack of corpus delicti.

During the investigation, Senior Gavar Police Investigator H. Mkrtchyan's bias was apparent. He told Hovhannisyan: "You too provoked him. He said don't film me [and] you filmed him."

The investigator didn't consider the statement addressed to the journalist "You be careful; We'll find [you] in Yerevan [and] kill you" a serious threat. Nor did he believe Ghevondyan obstructed the journalist's work, threatening her, "Be careful; I'm going to kill you, you cunt," after which he got out of the car and moved toward Hovhannisyan. The only reason there was no brawl was because Hovhannisyan ran and got inside the bus.

In submitting a notice about a crime, Hovhannisyan focused on the hinderance to her professional duties, but no criminal case was launched on these grounds. Investigator Mkrtchyan said, "… issuing threats to AniHovhannisyan happened during the conflict, at a moment of anger, and they weren't serious…"

The investigator justified the aggressive behavior of the men solely on their testimonies, concluding without an assessment that they were in an "emotional" state; meanwhile, videos uploaded online show the exact opposite.

Supermarket Owner Apologizes for Keeping Reporters in Basement

On May 28, (the online version of Zhoghovurd newspaper) reported that members of its staff were being held by the security guard and attorney of Moskvichka supermarket (the location at the intersection of Aboyan St. and Sayat-Nova Ave. in Yerevan) and were not allowed to leave the store. According to the news site, the reporter found a piece of glass in the cooked rice she purchased from Moskvichka and returned to the store with a video camera seeking an explanation. She and another reporter were taken to the basement of the store and asked to erase the photo and video footage, after which they were told they would be released.

Subsequently, the Prosecution Office of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan sent Kentron Police Division a notice stating that Moskvichka manager SargisGalstyan obstructed the lawful, professional activities of journalist QnarManukyan.

On June 12, a decision was made refusing to launch criminal proceedings — on grounds of lack of corpus delicti.

Manukyan informed Hetq that on the day of the incident, Moskvichka owner ArmenNazaryan came to the news outlet's editorial office and in the presence of all the staff apologized for his employees' behavior.

"Taking all this into consideration, we said what else can we do; if they acknowledge their guilt and apologize to all the staff, we said that we don't have a complaint. Despite all this, the Kentron Police Division began an investigation. They personally called me in for questioning, and I said that considering the supermarket [owner's] approach, that he apologized to us for the behavior of his employees, we don't have a complaint. Some time later, we were notified that they refused to launch a criminal case," says Manukyan.

Journalist Reports Crime But Says He Has No Complaint Against His Assailants

On June 21, news site co-founder HovhannesYesayan testified to police at the Kanaker-Zeytun division in Yerevan that at around 3 am the same day, two unknown men attacked him in the yard of 14/1 Rubinyants St. in Yerevan. While gathering materials for the case, police were unable to identify the men. In such cases of minor injuries, the Armenian Criminal Code stipulates that criminal proceedings will be launched only if the victim complains; however, Yesayan said he has no complaint against the two men. A decision was made on July 1 to refuse to launch a criminal case.

Criminal Case Quashed: Journalist Appeals Decision in Court

Two cases were filed this year concerning the obstruction of ChorrordInknishkhanutyun newspaper reporter AniGevorgyan's activities: according to one, the criminal case filed with Armenia's Special Investigation Service (SIS), police officer VardanGevorgyanonFebruary 12 at Mashtots Park attempted to grab Gevorgyan's camera and obstruct her professional activity. In the complaint she filed with SIS, Gevorgyan stated that police used force against her not only at the park, but also in Kentron Division — the latter by department chief ArtakPoghosyan.

Gevorgyan informed Hetq that the case was quashed, after which she took the matter to court to dispute the decision. The case is currently underway, with the next court date set for Sept. 24.

The second incident occurred on June 23. After demonstrators protesting the electricity hike had been detained by police, Gevorgyan went to the yard of the Kentron division of Yerevan Police to cover the event where, she said, a group of police employees used force against her, injuring her lower lip. She reported this incident to the police, adding that the police employees obstructed her professional activities with their actions.

A decision was made to send the case to SIS through the Prosecution Office of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan.

On July 1, SIS issued a statement that on the basis of the report of Ani and SargisGevorgyan, a criminal case was launched under RA Criminal Code Article 309 Section 2 ("exceeding official authorities, committed with violence, weapons, or special measures") and Article 164 Section 3 ("hindrance to the legal professional activities of a journalist") concerning the events of June 23.

"This criminal case is currently under examination at the Special Investigation Service, with which I and [camera] operator SargisGevorgyan were recognized as the injured party. We've already been questioned; on Sept. 11 we were acquainted with the decision to establish an investigative team for this case. Though there are more than 20 victims in this case [a group of citizens also filed a report with the police concerning police force used against them, and a criminal case was filed], no police officer has been identified as a suspect. That is to say, we're victims, but from what or by whom, the investigative body has failed to identify," says Gevorgyan.

When a Journalist Denies Use of Force Against Him

The website of Hraparak newspaper reported that Kentron TV reporter GevorgKhachatryan was severely beaten by the "Tsarukyan punitive brigade" [AM] (referring to Kentron TV owner, Prosperous Armenia Party leader GagikTsarukyan) and dismissed from his job.

No evidence of the beating was found, and on August 27, a decision was made to refuse to launch criminal proceedings — on the basis of lack of corpus delicti.

After the news was published, the reporter called the editorial office and tried to deny the incident. "Basically, we live in a country where the [person who was] beaten resists and asks he not be protected. Perhaps he believes he deserves to be beaten," concluded Hraparak.

Reporter Assaulted Outside National Assembly

On Sept. 9, after the art group Hakaharvats ("counter strike") hung a banner on the Armenian National Assembly's main gate that read “Hello Rob” (referring to former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan), Head of the National Security Service of the National Assembly Karen Hayrapetyan came out of the gates and tore the banner, then approached A1+ journalist Marine Khachatryan, who was filming the incident, hitting her arm and throwing her recording device (an iPad) to the ground.

Hayrapetyan said he didn't notice the journalist's press badge and thought it was the journalist who hung the banner on the gates.

On Sept. 12, a statement was issued that upon General Prosecutor GevorgKostanyan's request, the Special Investigation Service will investigate the incident between the security chief and the journalist. Khachatryan herself did not submit a statement or file a complaint.

The number of several dozen cases of violence against journalists since Armenia gained independence that were exposed can be counted on one hand. Human rights defenders and journalists repeatedly claim that the police does not carry out a proper investigation and the situation remains unchanged. Everything wraps up with the investigators' favorite expression of "lack of corpus delicti" and a green light for new incidents of violence.

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