“Hayots Ashkhar” discusses what it calls “extremely difficult” relations between the Armenian government and the media in its first issue of the new year. The paper says the authorities are very unhappy with the media emphasis on negative aspects of the country’s day-to-day life. They want newspapers and television channels to cover positive developments as well. But journalists counter that their reporting does reflect the overall situation in the country, an argument with which “Hayots Ashkhar” agrees. It says the media is right in not fully trusting government officials.
“Aravot” starts the new year by resuming attacks on tobacco magnate Hrant Vartanian, saying that he is using nationalist rhetoric to make more money. The paper reports that Vartanian’s Grand Tobacco firm has produced a new cigarette brand named after Tigran the Great, the famous Armenian king of the 1st century B.C. A message on the cigarette pack urges smokers to “Think big, act big and dream big.”
Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the parliament, tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that completion of political and governance reforms is the key challenge facing the National Assembly in 2002. Without them, he says, it will be hard to achieve further economic improvement. Torosian hopes that the parliament will make final amendments in Armenia’s electoral code this spring, exactly one year before the next elections. The paper adds for its part that another important issue to be debated by the parliament (most likely in March) is the abolition of the death penalty.
“Aravot” welcomes the government’s stated intention to reduce Armenia’s budgetary dependence on Western loans but is skeptical about the government’s ability to achieve that goal. It says this skepticism is shared by the chairman of the Armenian Central Bank, Tigran Sarkisian. The paper goes on to claim that delays in external funding have served as a good pretext for the authorities to justify their repeated failure to meet budget targets and distract public attention from poor tax collection and the existence of a huge shadow economy.