Ararat Davtyan

2009/ 05/08 | 17:11

Important media

Has the time come for reporters to carry guns?

At a press conference held today reporters asked Hovhannes Tamanyan,
head of the RoA Police Criminal Investigations Department why it is
that the police, as a rule, cannot find those responsible for attacks
against reporters, a primary factor that just leads to more attacks.

"Yes, I support the notion that responsible, educated individuals
should have the right to bear arms," stated Colonel Tamanyan, adding
that such thugs would understand that a journalist can take out his or
her weapon and open fire when the need arose. Colonel Tamanyan stated
that twice in his career he has had to use his weapon to defuse a
crime scene.

Twice within the past week reporters have been assaulted. Argishti
Kiviryan, the coordinator of the "Armenia Today" and "Bagin" websites
was attacked on April 30, and Nver Mnatsakanyan, a popular news anchor
on "Shant" T.V. was attacked on May 7.

"We too are concerned. We are saddened not only by these two latest
attacks, but in general. I have file cases in my possession regarding
attacks on journalists and political figures going back to 1992. In
truth, attacks against reporters smear the huge work we have carried
out. We will be working day and night to get to the bottom of these
crimes. I implore you to trust in us be confident that we will do
everything possible to put a halt to this despicable manner of crime,"
stated Colonel Tamanyan.

The police official stated that yesterday a close door consultative
meeting was convened in which "specific questions were asked regarding
the work being done to solve crimes committed against members of
the press".

Colonel Tamanyan noted that since 1992 the police have registered
seventeen incidents of violence against reporters in Armenia, of
which three have been solved; one in Gavar and two in Yerevan.

"The crime committed against "Haylur" reporter Anna Badalyan, which
took place on November 24, 2005, in the vicinity of the General
Andranik statue was solved, as well as the November 17, 2008, assault
on reporter Edik Baghdasaryan that took place opposite the building
located at #1/3 Buzant Street," stated Colonel Tamanyan.

The degree to which the assault on Edik Baghdasaryan remains
questionable since two of his attackers remain at large and those
responsible for ordering the "hit" have yet to be named. When "Hetq"
pressed the police official on this matter Colonel Tamanyan responded,
"The criminal act itself has been solved. As to what degree we regard
it to be solved...There are no standards to measure that. It's a whole
other matter to fully reveal the case and bring all those responsible
to justice. The part of the case that we have exposed has been sent
to the court, while the investigation of the balance of the case goes
on. Thus, this case cannot be closed."

The police have started a criminal investigation into the beating of
journalist Argishti Kiviryan on the charge of "intent to cause light
bodily injury". All the while lawyers argue that the assault was a
murder attempt. The fact that photo-journalist Gagik Shamshyan took
pictures of the crime scene just one half hour after the incident
that clearly show spent bullet casings on the ground would justify
such a claim.

When "Hetq" asked Colonel Tamanyan why the police arrived at a less
severe evaluation of the crime, the head of the criminal investigation
department responded, "We have brought a case based on what we have
in hand.

When the preliminary investigation substantiates that it was indeed
an attempted murder we will definitely reevaluate our findings." He
went on to say that the case has been taken over by the National
Security Service but could not give the reason why.

As to why the spent cartridges went missing, Colonel Tamanyan
speculated that, "I don't know. We didn't find any shells after
examining the crime scene. If anyone pocketed them they should hand
them over to us."

A police trainee instructor that was a witness to the attack on
Edik Baghdasaryan noted in his testimony that one of the assailants
uttered the words "go and die, die" as he kept beating the now
unconscious Baghdasaryan on the head as the reporter lay sprawled on
the ground. Neither did the police register this incident as attempted
murder, but rather sent the case to court with a charge of "causing
medium degree bodily injury".

When "Hetq" pressed the police investigator if this too was a correct
legal evaluation of the case, Colonel Tamanyan only response was that
we take the matter up with the preliminary investigative body.

When "Hetq" asked Colonel Hovhannes Tamanyan, as a high ranking
police official, to offer an explanation as to why acts of violence
directed against members of the press in Armenia aren't being solved,
his answer was as follows:

"You are saying things and that is your right. I can't oppose them. And
if the numbers I have presented to you, about the doubled police
effort against crime, double the number of arrests, imprisonments
and solving of cases, mean nothing to you, and you say that it is
because of police inaction or premeditation that such cases aren't
be solved...Well, I can't agree. Not to value the hard work and sweat
shown by the police, in my opinion isn't a serious approach."

We then reminded Colonel Tamanyan to answer the question regarding
attacks against reporters. "Are you satisfied with the results
regarding solving such crimes? Please give us your explanation as to
why they aren't being solved."

Colonel Tamanyan responded, "No, I am not satisfied. I noted before
that a meeting of all interested parties was called by the police
chief to specifically review work being carried out to solve crimes
and violations against reporters. This issue is at the focus of
our daily attention. And I truly say to you that it hurts me as
well. Don't believe for a minute that I derive any pleasure from
sitting with you and discussing this matter about unsolved cases of
your colleagues. We will do all I our power to solve these cases,
so that next time we meet I can happily inform you that these crimes
have been solved. Don't despair. We haven't given up hope either."