Civilnet journalist attacked in Nagorno-Karabakh

Journalist Hayk Ghazaryan from CivilNet’s Artsakh team

By Mane Berikyan

CivilNet journalist Hayk Ghazaryan was attacked Tuesday in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, by a group of men in civilian clothing after facing earlier pressure by Karabakh law enforcement authorities. The men, who Ghazaryan said he recognized as employees of Artsakh Minister of Internal Affairs Karen Sargsyan, dragged and beat him in Stepanakert’s city center. The incident took place two days after a policeman snatched his phone while covering a protest.

Last Sunday, Ghazaryan was covering a protest taking place in front of the Artsakh National Security Service when a clash broke out between protesters and police, which he filmed on his phone. The journalist’s phone was then snatched by a police officer who later claimed he did not know that Ghazaryan was a journalist. Ghazaryan says he was visibly displaying a press badge.

Those protests were organized and attended by the lawyers and relatives of Arman Israelyan, who say Karabakh authorities are not allowing them to visit the suspect. Israelyan, who is facing charges of high treason, formerly worked at the Halo Trust, an NGO engaged in demining in Nagorno-Karabakh, and later at the local office of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ghazaryan later identified the man who took his phone as Colonel Arayik Gasparyan, head of the criminal investigations department of the Artsakh Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Following an intervention by Nagorno-Karabakh Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan, Ghazaryan’s phone was returned, but the footage filmed during the protest had been deleted.

The following day, CivilNet’s reporter was invited to the Artsakh National Security Service (NSS), where the head of the agency, Ararat Melkumyan, addressed him in a threatening tone and demanded he go live on social media to apologize to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and NSS officers.

In response, CivilNet published a statement urging Karabakh authorities not to obstruct the work of its journalist.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Human Rights Defender, Gegham Stepanyan, also released a statement condemning the Karabakh authorities’ actions, saying it is “unacceptable to interfere with the work of journalists.”

Today, Ghazaryan was attacked by a group of men in the city center while walking home from work, just blocks away from CivilNet’s office in Stepanakert.

“They captured me, took me to an alley, and wanted to kidnap me,” said Ghazaryan. “I purposely began yelling so that they could not take me away. I fell, they dragged me. They punched my nose,” he added.

CivilNet journalist Hayk Ghazaryan was injured after being attacked in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.

Human Rights Defender Stepanyan released a second statement after the incident, strongly condemning the violence against the CivilNet journalist and saying the Human Rights Defender’s office has initiated procedures to bring the perpetrators to justice.

​​The ArtsakhPress news agency, a local media outlet, joined the Karabakh Human Rights Defender in condemning the violence against Ghazaryan, and called on law enforcement to take measures to bring the perpetrators of the incident to justice.

Hayk is a reporter for CivilNet Artsakh, which remains the only outside news agency with a field office in Karabakh.

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