By Atom Markarian
The government decided on Thursday to press ahead with the repeatedly delayed privatization of a state-run agency which distributes and sells the majority of Armenia’s newspapers.
Under the plan approved by ministers, the Haymamul enterprise will be privatized after the sale within the next two months of its 306 newspaper kiosks scattered across the country. Haymamul employees running the kiosks will be offered to buy them in the first instance. The future owners of the news-stands will not be allowed to turn them into other businesses for the next five years.
Proceeds from the sales will be directed to the payment of Haymamul’s debt to dozens of Armenian publications which have long complained about the agency’s inefficient work. Many newspaper editors believe that the privatization is only way of ending Haymamul’s chronic debts. Some of them have argued that its ownership by the state gave the authorities important leverage against the independent media.
Haymamul was included in the list of state enterprises subject to privatization in September 2000.