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Firebombing the Messenger in Armenia

Late last month, while putting the finishing touches on the next edition of our newspaper, Haykakan Zhamanak (The Armenian Times), we heard an explosion outside our office. Staff members rushed to find my car on fire.

That explosion was not unanticipated – nor was the announcement by Armenia’s police that the car had caught fire due to technical problems. But the real problem is censorship, for the explosion was but the latest offensive in Armenia’s hidden war against the press.

For us the battle for press freedom began in 1999, soon after founding our newspaper, then named Oragir (Diary). It made an instant impact, but not in the way we hoped. Throughout 1999 there were more court cases against Oragir than against all other Armenian media combined since independence in 1991.

In one case, the prosecutor’s office brought criminal charges against me as editor-in-chief: I was accused of slandering an Armenian political figure and of insulting a state official. As a result, the court sentenced me to one year in prison.