YPC Weekly Newsletter

2002


THE PRESSURE ON "ABOVIAN" TV COMPANY CONTINUES

In the early morning of September 9 the founder of "Abovian" TV company Artashes Mehrabian met the journalists and answered their questions on what was happening to the management of "Abovian" TV. As it has already been reported, on August 24 Artashes Mehrabian and the Executive Director of the TV company Azniv Chizmechian were beaten by groups of strangers. On August 30 at a press conference in Yerevan Azniv Chizmechian placed the responsibility for the incident of the Mayor of Abovian city Karo Israelian, whose activities are strongly criticized by the company. However, this did not put an end to the occurrence: the harassment and threats to Mr. Mehrabian and Ms. Chizmechian continued (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, August 3 – September 6, 2002).

At a night meeting with journalists Artashes Mehrabian handed to the colleagues the text of the statement addressed by himself to the RA President Robert Kocharian, the Speaker of the National Assembly Armen Khachatrian, the Minister of National Security Karlos Petrosian, the General Prosecutor Aram Tamazian, the Minister of Interior Affairs Haik Haroutiunian.

The statement says in particular that on September 6 at about 11 a.m. in Yerevan at the entrance of the editorial office of "Or" daily three men had been waiting for the founder of "Abovian" TV. One of them, approaching Mr. Mehrabian, demanded the TV company "to promote Mayor Karo Israelian only", and promised “a significant remuneration". Otherwise, the TV company had to stop the broadcasts until the elections to the local administration bodies, scheduled for October 15, are over. Mr. Mehrabian was also told to leave Abovian city for that period. The stranger threatened to get even with the founder himself, his family and the staff of the TV company, should he fail to comply with the demands. The threats sounded so real that Artashes Mehrabian immediately called the editorial office and required to stop the work of the TV company. "(…) I request you to take steps and ensure the security of my family and staff of the TV company as well as to resume the work of the TV company", the written statement of Artashes Mehrabian says.

On September 9 at the press conference at the House of Journalist this statement was disseminated among media representatives. The Executive Director of "Abovian" TV Azniv Chizmechian was also present at the conference and said she was not going to hide any longer.

On September 10 on the air of the Public Television of Armenia and "Prometheus" TV Artashes Mehrabian announced that the problems of "Abovian" TV were solved and there was no necessity in the intervention of the third party. He explained his several-day absence by personal reasons. The next day in his interview to "Or" daily (September 12, 2002) Mehrabian said that this TV announcement was made under pressure: "I had to narrate other people’s ideas."

It is obvious that it is very difficult for the Armenian media to remain independent during pre-election campaigns. One can assert with regret that in the heat of political struggle the media become toys for those seeking power.