YPC Weekly Newsletter

2001


GOVERNMENT ATTACKING PRESS

The decision of the Armenian Government on the privatization of the newspaper stalls, currently owned by the Press Dissemination Agency (“Haymamoul” State Close Joint Stock Company), dated November 15, arose negative response among the media of the country. As it has already been reported, in the privatization process the vendors themselves enjoy an advantage, yet, having become owners, they must retain the primary profile of the stalls, i.e., sell newspapers and magazines, among other possible goods, during at least five years (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 10-16, 2001). In the opinion of the media and the experts, there are no guarantees that this condition will be observed in practice and the vendors will not start to pursue a policy, beneficial to themselves. Consequently, the only somewhat operational network for press dissemination is running the risk of collapse. The author of the project of the privatization of the newspaper stalls and “Haymamoul” itself, the RA Ministry of State Property, represented by Minister David Vardanian, sees no danger threatening the print media, moreover, he maintains that the Agency will get an opportunity to pay back the old liabilities to the editorial offices accumulated before 1998 (150 mln drams – about $300 000). To crown it all, as the Minister advised the newspaper people, one must make a newspaper that would be in demand and, therefore, would sell. Considering the small circulations, which are, among other reasons, related to the low purchasing ability of the population, this advice of the Minister, whose activities are a subject for sharp criticism by the media, sounds somewhat cynical. As "Aravot" daily was told by the Press Secretary of the RA President Vahe Gabrielian, Robert Kocharian commissioned the lawyers with the task of developing and introducing such requirements to the vendors that would ensure the future press dissemination.

Another equally painful subject that looms menacingly over the skinny wallet of the press, a subject which has been discussed a lot on the newspaper pages is the situation around the House of Press, where most of the editorial offices are located. By the decision of the Government a few months ago the building of the House of Press was transferred from the authority of the Department of Information and Publications to that of the same Ministry of State Property. Presently, the new owner intends to triple the rents starting from January 1, 2002. In the opinion of Minister Vardanian, the new renting system will allow to direct the greatest part of the money to the state budget, and the smallest – to maintain the building of the House of Press itself.

The media are also greatly concerned over the process of the privatization of the House of Press and the building at 28, Isahakian str., where the leading news agencies are concentrated. Taking into consideration the decisions above, the hopes that in this issue the executive power will take into account the media interests are almost nullified. In any case, the Government declined the suggestion of the media leaders to entitle the media to use the premises presently occupied by them, free of charge with no property rights granted until the privatization is completed (see details in the YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 1-7, 2001). At the same time David Vardanian keeps insistently recommending the press to unite and establish a condominium at the House of Press.