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Ambushed: Investigative journalist becomes victim of violent attack

Another attack on a journalist has happened in Armenia. On Monday evening, three unknown persons beat Edik Baghdasaryan, an award-winning investigative journalist, chairman of the “Investigative Journalists” NGO.

Baghdasaryan, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Hetq online journal, left his office located in 1/3 Buzand Street at 7.50 pm and went into the direction of his car where he was ambushed by three unknown persons.

“Those were strangers, their faces were open but it was dark, they did not say anything to me, they started to hit me straight away, they did not demand anything. I tried to resist and we fought for a few minutes, for quite some time, then they dragged my clothes off me,” Baghdasaryan told A1 Plus a few minutes after the attack as he was being given first aid on the spot by ambulance workers.

He said he had resisted until one of the assailants hit him on the head with a rock. Baghdasaryan then, according to his own account, managed to escape and run quickly to the building, asking for an ambulance service to be called in. The assailants, he said, had run away taking with then an expensive photo camera.

The Hetq editor is currently at the Grigor Lusavorich medical center, receiving treatment for his injuries. In particular, he received an injury on the skull. Doctors say his current condition is satisfactory and soon he will be transferred to an ordinary room.

Deputy chief of the Hetq magazine Liana Sayadyan told ArmeniaNow that the editorial office had not received any threats, either verbal or written, of late.

“There were cases in the past when we received emails where it was specifically mentioned who Edik Baghdasaryan should not write about, but in this case we did not get anything like that and do not know who could have done such a thing,” she said.

“He [Baghdasaryan] himself does not suspect anyone particularly, since in the recent period he has worked simultaneously on many stories – ranging from corruption in banana imports, the mining industry, and the violence that happened near the Odnoklassnki restaurant and other stories,” Sayadyan added.

“But one thing is clear to me – it has to do with serious exposures that he made with his work, all his stories expose abuses of office and are potentially dangerous. I am convinced that the incident is linked with Baghdasaryan’s professional activities.”

Police instituted a criminal case under article 113 of the Criminal Code (inflicting bodily harm of medium gravity by a group of persons). An inquiry is ongoing.

At the same time, the country’s main opposition Armenian National Congress issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.

“This outrageous deed is another proof that the criminal regime has declared war on free speech,” the opposition alliance, in particular, said.

It was reported later in the day that Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan visited Baghdasaryan in the hospital.

Also, presidential spokesman Samvel Farmanyan described the violence as “unacceptable” and “condemnable”.

“The president of the republic has given instructions to law-enforcement bodies to find and bring to account those responsible for the attack,” he said in a statement.

This year has stood out not only by an unprecedentedly tense internal political situation in Armenia but also – and the link is obvious – by an increased number of attacks on journalists in Armenia. Several international and local watchdogs and human rights groups have slammed the government for not doing enough to prevent and expose cases of attacks on media representatives and trace and find those responsible for the attacks.