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Radio Liberty journalist attacked by protesters in Yerevan

24 February 2021
Moments before the attack. Video still.

A journalist working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has been attacked by protesters while covering an opposition rally in Yerevan.

Azatutyun (RFE/RL’s Armenian Service) correspondent Artak Khulian told OC Media about the attack, which took place during a Tuesday march organised by the Homeland Salvation Movement, a coalition of opposition parties calling for Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation. 

‘In the evening, during our live stream, protesters started to insult not only the organisation but us’, he said. ‘Our cameraman was severely attacked, with protesters pushing and hitting him.’

Video of the incident.

Khulian said that Azatutyun is regularly accused by supporters of the Homeland Salvation Movement of betraying Armenia and ‘handing over Nagorno-Karabakh’ or unfairly criticising the opposition while withholding critique of the Pashinyan administration.  

This is not the first time journalists working for Azatutyun have been attacked by the Armenian opposition. During a riot that took place the night the tripartite peace agreement that ended the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War was signed, a group of rioters attacked Azatutyun’s Yerevan office. 

Those attacking the office included high-ranking members of Armenia’s former ruling Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, both leading parties in the Homeland Salvation Movement coalition. 

In a Facebook post, opposition leader and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armenian parliament, Arsen Babayan, condemned the incident and apologised on behalf of the protesters.

‘I consider any violence or hatred and especially against journalists unacceptable’, he wrote. 

Police violence 

There was also violence from the police earlier in the day. That morning, when police were detaining protesters who had attempted to block Nikol Pashinyan from entering the Government Building, they shoved a journalist working for Sputnik to the ground. Additionally, during the arrests, one protestor had his leg broken — an official investigation into the incident has been launched. 

Police report that a total 57 protesters were detained that morning, while opposition leader Gegham Manukian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation claimed that the police had taken over 100 people into custody. 

Homeland Salvation Movement Prime Ministerial hopeful Vazgen Manukyan said he had never seen ‘such cruel police’ and urged protesters to take photos of any officer who ‘uses violence’.  Armenia’s chief of Police, Vahe Ghazaryan, has since promised to meet with opposition leaders.   

Tuesday evening’s protest was the third this week after the opposition announced 

‘non-stop’ protests on Saturday.

[ Read more: Armenian opposition announces 'non-stop' protests ]

Alongside the protest by the Homeland Salvation Movement, that youth wings of coalition parties (The Republican Party, ARF, and Prosperous Armenia) have been holding their own demonstrations across Yerevan. 

One such protest took place on the morning of 24 February, when opposition youth stormed Armenia’s public universities and called for university students to join them. They clashed with police at the entrance to the Armenian State University of Economics, eventually breaking through the police barricade an entering the university. 

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