Is the Hindrance to the Professional Activities of Journalist Regular?

In the end of the previous week it became known that the proceedings of the criminal case launched in connection with the hindrance to the legal professional activities of the correspondent of the RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Radio Liberty/Azatutyun), Elina Chilingaryan, had been suspended, based on the lack of corpus delicti.

As a background for the case, while covering the May 6 National Assembly elections, Chilingaryan was assaulted by a young man outside the Erebuni 12/33 polling station, who attempted to confiscate the video camera in her hand and break her memory device — twice striking a blow to her hand in the process. Chilingaryan claimed the youth hit her and snatched the camera after it fell during the scuffle. However, the journalist managed to take her camera back and capture the incident. Criminal proceedings had been filed under Point 1 of Article 164 of the RA Penal Code in connection with obstruction to a journalist’s professional activities.

The decision to quash the case sounds as follows: “Elina Chilingaryan, while filming, didn’t present herself as a journalist, didn’t bear a special mark identifying her as a journalist, and the video camera she used didn’t have an identifying mark as well.

“In such conditions, in assessing the combination of evidence acquired during the investigation, H. Hambardzumyan didn’t realize and was not obliged to realize that Elina Chilingaryan is a journalist and is carrying out professional activity, has to be considered justified.

Telling the details of the incident, Elina Chilingaryan informed that while taking interviews from the voters outside the polling station, she had introduced herself as a journalist and managed to implement her duties without any obstacle. The young man, who attacked the journalist, was not among the participants of the interview, so there was no need to be introduced as a journalist to him. He was just one of the people grouped outside the polling station, who approached and struck twice at the journalist’s hand.

Unfortunately, it is not the first time that the people responsible for violence towards a journalist have not been identified and punished. In particular, we should mention the criminal proceedings launched in connection with hindrance to two journalists’ (Hayk Gevorgyan from the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily and Gohar Veziryan from the “Chorrord Inqnishkhanutyun” daily) professional activities during January 10, 2010 additional parliamentary elections in constituency N10 of Yerevan. Both of the proceedings were suspended. The criminal cases were under the control of the Special Investigation Service of Armenia.

By the way, the proceedings of three criminal cases launched in connection with hindrance to journalist’s legal professional activities during parliamentary elections 2012 are also under the control of the Special Investigation Service of Armenia. The professional activities of Vladimir Khachatryan (cameraman of the “Kentron” TV station), Varazdat Papikyan (cameraman, journalist of the “Kentron” TV station) and Karen Alekyan (cameraman, journalist of the “Maxinfo” news agency) were hindered.

According to information provided by the Special Investigation Service the examination of the cases is still ongoing, there are no suspects and arrested people. Steps are taken to identify people responsible for the crime.

Time will show the effectiveness of the results.

Anna Aloyan

CPFE expert

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