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RFE/RL President Calls For Speedy Investigation of Attacks on Journalists

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent during interview at RFE/RL's Azatutyun TV News Center in Yerevan September 6, 2016.
RFE/RL President Thomas Kent during interview at RFE/RL's Azatutyun TV News Center in Yerevan September 6, 2016.

WASHINGTON -- The president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) met on September 6 with Armenia’s president and called for a rapid and transparent investigation of a July 29 attack on three RFE/RL correspondents in Yerevan.

Thomas Kent also expressed satisfaction that RFE/RL’s Armenian Service is normally able to operate in Armenia with substantial journalistic freedom, covering local news and interviewing both government and opposition figures. The service is active on television, radio and the internet.

In an interview with the Armenian Service after the meeting, Kent said he told President Serzh Sarkisian that RFE/RL’s freedom to operate in Armenia makes the July attack “even more surprising.”

RFE/RL staff members Karlen Aslanian, Hovannes Movsisian and Garik Harutiunian were attacked by men in plainclothes wielding sticks and metal bars. The reporters were providing reporting and live video of violent clashes between riot police and supporters of opposition gunmen who had seized a police compound.

The reporters were wearing press identification. More than a dozen other Armenian journalists were targeted in the attacks, which U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills called “particularly troubling” during a July 30 interview with RFE/RL.

“I told the president, as I have said before, that RFE/RL expects there to be a full investigation into this case,” said Kent. “He told me that some people have been arrested already, and I said that we would be looking forward to the progress of that case.”

At the meeting, Sarkisian also criticized RFE/RL’s coverage of the two-week standoff between security forces and gunmen who seized the police station, killing a police officer. He said coverage was not neutral and objective enough.

“I responded that RFE/RL always tries to be fair and objective in its coverage,” Kent said in this regard. “Clearly whenever we are criticized, we listen carefully to the criticism and if improvements in our coverage need to be made, they will be.”