The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned violent attacks by Armenian police on journalists seeking to cover efforts to disperse street demonstrations in Yerevan and it called on authorities to hold officers involved accountable.
“Reports that scores of accredited journalists were beaten and detained, and their equipment destroyed, at the direction of senior police officials are shocking and absolutely unacceptable,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said.
“Authorities must move quickly to fully investigate yesterday’s events in a transparent manner and ensure anyone responsible for the use of excessive force is held accountable under Armenian law. Anything less sends an extremely dangerous message.”
RFE/RL reported more than a dozen instances in which journalists, who were present to cover protests this week over an increase in electricity prices, said that senior police officials ordered officers to attack them or arrest them without cause. Officers also smashed journalists’ laptops, phones, cameras and video equipment, and confiscated memory cards, the broadcaster said.
The protestors oppose a decision to increase electricity prices from 17 to 22 percent starting Aug. 1.
After police used water cannons and batons to disperse an initial attempt by protestors who had gathered at Yerevan’s Freedom Square and were blocking Baghramian Avenue near President Serzh Sarksyan’s office, protestors made a second attempt and were met by a similar response.
However, the heavy-handed crackdown reportedly fuelled the protests, leading thousands to gather yesterday in protest of both the electricity price hike and the police response.