Armenian press commentary continues to be dominated by the agreement between the Armenian government and the ArmenTel operator. Papers differ widely in their assessments of the deal.
The pro-Kocharian “Hayots Ashkhar” says results of two-month talks between the government and ArmenTel were surprisingly good. Most telephone users should be quite happy with what they have been offered. The paper also shrugs off the “boring populism” of government opponents that have denounced the deal.
“Azg” concludes that the tariff agreement was “on the whole a positive event.” “ArmenTel and the government no longer blame and oppose each other; the population knows when and how much they are going to have to pay; and the [telecommunications] system gets a clearer picture.” But the paper also has serious misgivings regarding the government’s upbeat statements. It says the failure to reach agreement on other thorny issues related to ArmenTel’s operations revealed “the weakness of the government’s positions.” The mobile phone connection is still unreliable and expensive in Armenia. So is the satellite connection for Internet providers offered by ArmenTel. The government made unilateral concessions on ArmenTel’s investment commitments without making any progress on the abolition of the company’s monopoly.
“Golos Armenii” is not at all impressed with the telecom settlement. The Armenian government, it says, has found itself “powerless in the face of an ordinary foreign company,” unable to re-negotiate the “adventurist” sale of ArmenTel in 1998.
“Aravot” quotes a senior member of the Armenian parliament as saying that Nairi Hunanian and four other parliament gunmen must be executed after their trial. Victor Dallakian, who is chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, makes the point that the defendants would tell the truth about the parliament shootings if they faced the possibility of being sentenced to death. Dallakian suspects President Kocharian of leaning towards the complete abolition of the death penalty before the end of the parliament shootings trial.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says one of the wealthiest deputies of the parliament, Manvel Ghazarian, has been forced by the authorities to buy a major Armenian television station, Ar TV. The paper claims that Ghazarian, who owns the Vedi Alco liquor company, has taken over Ar as part of the authorities’ drive to expand the circle of loyal media in advance of the 2003 elections.