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RFE/RL Journalists Beaten By Police While Covering Armenia Protests

Armenia -- Protesters are hit by a jet of water released from a riot police vehicle during a rally against a recent decision to increase the tariff on electricity, in Yerevan, June 23, 2015.

YEREVAN, Armenia -- In the morning hours of June 23, two RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondents were beaten by police while reporting on a standoff between protesters and police in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Police roughed up at least 10 journalists, including several other members of the RFE/RL crew working at the protest site; one of them was briefly detained. At least one RFE/RL camera used for providing live streaming of the unfolding drama was broken by the police. Other equipment used by RFE/RL correspondents was also damaged and memory cards were confiscated.

RFE/RL Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic protested the use of violence by police against RFE/RL journalists and other members of the media covering the demonstrations. "Our colleagues were doing their job, reporting for the benefit of the Armenian public. We condemn such interference," he said.

“This was a brutal and unacceptable attack, outside any norms of acceptable police behavior,” added RFE/RL Armenian Service Director Harry Tamrazian. “Police prevented our reporters from fulfilling their journalistic duty today.”

Protesters had gathered in front of the presidential compound to voice their anger over a decision made by state regulators to raise electricity prices by 16 percent beginning August 1.

After warning the crowd of about 5,000 that their protest was unlawful, police moved in to disperse them. Armenian police spokesman Ashot Aharonyan told Interfax that 237 people were arrested. He said seven demonstrators and 11 police officers were injured in the clashes, with three protesters being hospitalized.

Armenian Police Disperse Crowd Protesting Rise In Power Prices
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RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondents witnessed demonstrators being roughed up and chased, with some of them injured in the scuffle.

Tamrazian says before the police destroyed the journalists’ equipment, the service’s live stream of the events had reached more than 280,000 viewers. The population of Armenia is 3.2 million.