By Anush Dashtents
Armenian state television, controlled by President Robert Kocharian, and the press service of the government traded on Friday fresh accusations in an intensifying dispute over the news coverage of the executive.
The row broke out last week after the state-owned Armenian Public Television and Radio Company (PTRC) accused government press officers of barring one of its correspondents from entering the government building to cover a cabinet meeting. The PTRC board on Friday lodged a protest with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, accusing his press office of attempting to impose an “indirect censorship” on Armenia’s largest TV channel.
But the head of the press office, Mary Harutiunian, has rejected the accusations, saying that the correspondent in question, Lilit Sedrakian, demanded a “privileged treatment” by being allowed to be present at cabinet sessions which are held behind the closed doors. “Correspondents have until now not attended government meetings,” she told RFE/RL.
But the PTRC director, Tigran Naghdalian, insisted that Harutiunian is refusing to accredit Sedrakian and demands that state television send another correspondent. Naghdalian threatened to sue the government unless Markarian meets his demands.
The dispute is very unusual for Armenia where the state media is rarely critical of the authorities. Despite recent structural changes, the state television remains strictly controlled by Kocharian.