A journalist working for an independent Armenian media outlet was beaten by individuals he alleges were Interior Ministry employees in civilian clothing in Stepanakert, two days after his phone was taken by police while covering a protest.
Hayk Ghazaryan, a journalist at OC Media partners CivilNet, was attacked in the region’s capital on Tuesday evening.
Ghazaryan had been filming protests that took place on 8 and 9 July against the region’s prosecutor’s office, during which a clash broke out between protesters and police.
Protesters were demanding that lawyers be allowed to visit Arman Israelyan, a former employee of the Red Cross and Halo Trust who is charged with treason.
At the protest on Sunday, police confiscated Ghazaryan’s phone. According to Civilnet, Ghazaryan stated that he was wearing a press badge, but police claimed not to have been aware that he was a journalist because the press pass was the same colour as his trousers.
His phone was only returned to him later that day following the involvement of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Human Rights Defender, Gegham Stepanyan, and all videos of the protest had been deleted.
After the incident, the journalist recorded a live video on Facebook, stating that the official who took his phone was Arayik Gasparyan, head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Criminal Investigation Department. He demanded an explanation from the police and Interior Ministry.
On Monday, Ghazaryan was summoned to a meeting with the head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s National Security Service, Ararat Melkumyan. According to CivilNet, Melkumyan spoke to Ghazaryan in a ‘harsh and threatening tone’, and demanded that he broadcast a live apology to the Interior Ministry and National Security Service officers.
On Tuesday, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Human Rights Defender issued a statement condemning the obstruction of a journalist’s work, describing it as ‘unacceptable and reprehensible’.
In a second statement, released after news of the attack, Stepanyan condemned the violence, and demanded that law enforcement agencies take all measures necessary to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
CivilNet also called on law enforcement agencies in Nagorno-Karabakh to ‘immediately stop these actions that cross the borders of legality’, and instead deal with the region’s ongoing blockade.
This article was corrected on 12 July 2023. Ghazaryan stated that he was attacked by Interior Ministry employees, not police.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.