Another Journalist Attacked

On Monday evening Edik Baghdasaryan, the editor of Hetq Online, was brutally attacked in front of the building where his office is located in Yerevan. He managed to defend himself before being hit on the back of his head with some kind of object. Luckily no serious injuries were inflicted.

Edik Baghdasarian, who heads the Armenian Association of Investigative Journalists and runs a Yerevan-based online magazine, Hetq, left his office in downtown Yerevan at about 8 p.m. Monday and shortly was ambushed and beaten by three unknown assailants as he was going to get into his car parked in the street, according to his own account.

Baghdasarian said the attack was an unprovoked one and the assailants did not demand anything particular from him.

“Right near the car two people attacked me and began to land heavy blows. I retaliated and we were exchanging blows. I punched one of them and since I was holding a mobile phone in my hand at that moment, the phone now has blood stains on it, presumably the blood of one of the attackers,” Baghdasarian told RFE/RL.

Then, according to Baghdasarian, a third person hit him on the head from behind, presumably with a rock or some other solid object, after which, the journalist says, he fainted.
Edik, who is originally from Shushi, is perhaps the most widely respected investigative journalist in Armenia today. His gutsy, bold articles blatantly expose the corruption lying at the core of the Armenian government in the most minute detail, often citing financial figures of dodgy accounting reports released by businesses known to be owned by government ministers with ties to the underworld. His reporters have also written extensively about the hardships affecting the lives of thousands of people living in rural areas of the country as a result of poor governance and local officials skimming off the top of government funding. He has also won high acclaim for his 2004 series of articles and companion documentary called Desert Nights, which investigated the trafficking of Armenian women. Hetq Online also does an excellent job of reporting on the environmental breakdown that is ravaging all of Armenia as a result of industrialization and greed, leaving toxic filth in its wake. Their reports have led to some investigations of suspected criminals by law enforcement authorities as a result. Some, like trafficking culprits, have even been convicted.

I first met Edik briefly in 2000 and remained in infrequent contact with him for several years. In the beginning of 2004 while I was living in Boston he visited the area at the invitation of investigative journalist Stephen Kurkjian of The Boston Globe for a few weeks before moving on to Washington, D.C. Edik asked me to accompany him when attending some meetings he had with various people in the community and to show him around the city. As a result our friendship grew stronger. Shortly after relocating to Yerevan at the end of that year I had the privilege of occasionally writing stories and commentaries for Hetq Online. 

Edik is so revered in Armenian society that even the presidential office released a statement condemning the attack. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian visited Edik in the hospital and also conveyed his concerns to the press, vowing to capture the assailants. 

Notes From Hairenik strongly condemns this act of violence not only against Edik Baghdasaryan but all journalists who are simply doing their job--revealing the truth. These attacks have been going on for years, mainly against those reporters who try to expose the roots of corruption at the governmental level. It is an outrage and totally unacceptable that these attacks continue.

Hetq Online can be read in Armenian and also in English. Just recently it has transformed from a weekly to a daily online publication, a goal that Edik had been vying to meet for several years. The publication has yet to be printed as a newspaper, however. 

I do not as of yet know of an online reactionary petition against the attack being made available to be signed, but if I do hear of one I will post a link to it here. 


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