| 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
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
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.