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 October 3, 2003 




Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home


Often our profession is accused of perpetuating violence. Sometimes it is the victim of it.

Over a 22 year career in the United States, I knew a photographer who was mugged during riots in Miami and a reporter who was shot during riots in Los Angeles. I've known of others who were killed in war. All were extreme circumstances. Plenty of us have been threatened. (I once hid in a toilet to avoid the outrage of an angry nightclub owner whose mafia boss had invited me for a "talk").

Still, at seven newspapers with combined reporting staffs of 1,000 or more, I knew no journalist who was singled out and assaulted.

But within just the last year in Armenia I have been acquainted with one journalist who was murdered, one who was severely injured by a home-made bomb thrown at his feet and, now this week, one who was beaten to unconsciousness and had her nose broken.

Free speech comes with a price here. (Click here to see the latest example.)

If what I've been told of her work is true, Gayane Mukoyan lacks the essential ethics required to fit the definition of a legitimate "journalist". The newspaper she edits has earned its ex-communication from journalism organizations here by operating outside the bounds of decency and fairness - concepts so broadly stretched here that a media has to be really egregious to break accepted standards. Still, her paper has managed to go beyond unacceptable.

But should sloppy, or even ill-intended, reporting make it reasonable that a team of thugs should pull a journalist from her car, break her nose, and leave her unconscious? Here, apparently so.

In the most recent attack, at least feminists can cheer the fact that equal treatment of women has reached the ranks of journalism in Armenia. For the first time, a woman journalist has been beaten as if she were a man.

Mukoyan wrote some things that criticized some powerful people. For the sake of professional integrity, I hope her newspaper's reports were verifiable. Given its history, I have doubts. In any case, the powerful responded with power and have gotten away with felony assault.

My reaction, like other journalists here I suspect, was "What did you expect?" It is hard to work up any sympathy for someone who belittles the trade.

I do worry though about the environment that will allow future attacks.

An ArmeniaNow journalist received a phone call at home after midnight two days ago. She was told that she could expect retribution for a story we reported several weeks ago. The facts in the story were not disputed, so much as was the fact that the story made the caller look bad.

It is not the first time our reporter has been threatened, but Mukoyan's attack - and the fact that Armenian men would beat an Armenian female journalist - makes this threat more believable.

The source of the threat is known to have money, and therefore, power.

I suggested we report the incident to police. But my veteran colleague knows the situation here. She knows that her intimidator is very likely protected by his local police precinct, more so than she would be protected from him, by it.

So she loses sleep and shrugs her shoulders at suggestions of what to do.

What to do? You write your stories and you take your chances and you pray to be right. And hope that the threats stay confined to the phone, until the day when honest journalism and civil disagreement find more hold here.


According to Agnes
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  Inside
 

Fighting Words: Controversial editor attacked and badly beaten

Full story

 
 
 
 

The Naghdalyan Case: Wife of defendant claims her husband is a scapegoat

Full story

 
 
 

 


The Week in seven days

 
 


The Arts in seven days

 

  Photos of the week
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Click on the photo above to enlarge.

 
 
 
 

Bridge Bash

The second half of the Ashtarak Bridge is ready to be passed over, but not before it got a grand opening this week.

 

 





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