YPC Weekly Newsletter

2002


THE U.S. EMBASSY IN ARMENIA EXPRESSED ITS CONCERN OVER THE FUTURE OF ARMENIAN INDEPENDENT MEDIA

On April 3 the U.S. Embassy in Armenia issued a press release noting, in particular, that: “The decision on April 2 to award TV frequency 37, to date held by "A1+" television, to the "Sharm" group raises serious questions about the future of free and independent media in Armenia.” The U.S. Embassy “welcomes President Kocharian’s public statement that he would like to see "A1+" stay on the air, and is willing to explore the options for this to happen”. “If the broad spectrum of political opinion loses its access to the media, this will only undercut Armenia’s efforts to attain its place in the community of democratic nations, integrated in all appropriate international structures”, the press release says.

After the USA Embassy, the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its opinion on the issue. “We think it important to note that the competition for the 37th frequency, like those for other frequencies, was announced in accordance with the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, which was developed with the participation of all TV companies, adopted by a vast majority of votes of the National Assembly, comprising all the influential political forces of the country, after which was given a positive evaluation by an appropriate subdivision of the Council of Europe”, the statement of the Foreign Ministry says in particular. The Ministry expressed confidence that the application of law and its governance are the only guaranteed way to a democratic and legally protected society.

On April 2 in the letter addressed to the Armenian President Robert Kocharian the international organization “Reporters Without Borders” protested against the deprivation of “A1+” of a broadcast license, qualifying it as ”the most serious violation of pluralism in Armenia in the past few years”. The Secretary General of RSF Robert Menard appealed to the President to make a personal intervention for the National Commission to reconsider its decision. A promise that the “A1+” station will be assigned a new frequency – “at indefinite time” – is not enough, Mr. Menard stressed.

In the opinion of Armenian authorities, the agitation that rose on the issue of  “A1+” is a political manipulation. The competition results were not announced yet when Robert Kocharian admitted he would like to see this channel on air: “If there were no “A1+”, it would have to be invented.” At the same time the President expressed his wish for the “A1+” staff not to become a tool for those who were consistent in their attempts to destabilize the situation in Armenia.

The Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Margarian adheres to a similar opinion. He noted that the statements and declarations of opposition political parties on the loss of air by “A1+” have only political goals. The Prime Minister advised “Noyan Tapan” to appeal to the court, as it was done by “A1+”: “Disputes of this kind must be solved in the court room, and not in the city squares.”

On April 3 at the session of the RA National Assembly the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues Shavarsh Kocharian, deputies Hrant Khachatrian and Haik Babukhanian proposed to summon an extraordinary session the next day to introduce amendments into the RA Law “On Television and Radio”. The amendments were supposed to legally stipulate a right for a broadcaster , who lost the license and challenged the decision in court, to be entitled to go on air until the court makes a decision. Had this amendment been passed, “A1+” would have been able to resume broadcasting. Yet, “Unity” faction, possessing the majority of seats in the Parliament, asked for a twenty-minute break, and since only a few minutes were left till the end of the session, the discussion of the proposal made by deputies was delayed for the next three-day session to be held in ten days’ time.

A number of political and public figures keep stating their support to “A1+” and “Noyan Tapan”. On their part, the opposition political forces called on the public to participate in the protest action on April 5, at 17.00 at the Freedom Square in Yerevan.