On November 2 the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression organized a visit
to Gyumri for representatives of 10 national and Yerevan media to see the situation
with “GALA” TV company on site. As it has been reported, on October 22 the founder
of “GALA” Vahan Khachatrian made a statement with regard to the attempts of
various power agencies to exert pressure on the company. The author of the statement
stressed the firmness of the TV channel’s stance and his readiness to stop any
attempts of intervention in its editorial policy (see details in YPC Weekly
Newsletter, October 19-25, 2007).
On October 23 “GALA” was notified by the RA State Tax Service about a regular
tax audit to be undertaken at “CHAP” LLC, the founder of the TV company, since
October 29. The TV company, on its behalf, announced it was going to cover the
tax audit proceedings.
Besides, as Vahan Khachatrian said, the TV company started to lose advertisers:
their vast majority refused to cooperate. Now, instead of commercial slots,
“GALA” shows a caption card saying “Blockade” and quotes Constitution articles
guaranteeing various freedoms, including that of expression.
In the afternoon of November 6 an incident occurred involving “GALA” cameraman
Grigor Shaghoyan and an officer of the RA State Tax Service. The latter had attacked
the cameraman, shooting the audit proceedings, took him by the throat and tried
to take the video camera. The scuffle was stopped after the interference of
other representatives of tax service and the TV company staff. On the same day
Grigor Shaghoyan made a report to the Gyumri police department about impeding
his legitimate professional activities. The incident of November 6 was covered
by a number of national newspapers, the correspondents of which, upon the initiative
of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, had visited Gyumri on the
same day. The statement of “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri, released on
November 6, reminds, in particular, that Article 164 of the RA Criminal Code
qualifies impeding the legitimate professional activities of a journalist as
a criminal offense, and Part 2 of this Article stipulates responsibility for
the commitment of the same offence by an official, using his/her position.