Armenian newspapers carry statements condemning the closure of the A1 Plus television. “Aravot” runs a joint statement by the Yerevan Press Club and the Internews organization which accuses the commission on broadcasting of “politicizing” frequency tenders.
Another joint statement issued by “Iravunk,” the Armenian Union of Journalists and the Association of Investigative Journalists deplore “a big blow to Armenia’s democratic achievements, including freedom of speech.” It says the frequency tender was held in “blatant violation” of Armenian law and is therefore illegitimate.
Former foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian, who now runs an independent think tank in Yerevan, says a tender like that would have been impossible in a democratic and rule-of-law state.
“Aravot” has no doubt that Robert Kocharian was behind the decision to send A1 Plus off the air. The paper says that by rubber-stamping that decision the commission members proved their absolute loyalty to the president. “But let us not blame these already unfree people too much,” it notes. “How many of us can forego expected revenues for the sake of some ideas, freedom of speech. Probably very few. The majority [of us] wishes to get a place under the sun, by any means.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Kocharian has no lack of government officials ready to do whatever he wants. At stake is not just the fate of A1 Plus, the paper says. The authorities are keen to finally crush the opposition and anybody who would disseminate the latter’s message. They are sure they will not face stiff resistance from the opposition parties and the public in general.
“Everything is not yet over,” says “Azg,” arguing that the court may still rule in A1 Plus’s favor or, alternatively, the company could bid for another frequency. The paper, which supports Kocharian, says his political foes allied with former president Levon Ter-Petrosian have paid a lip service to A1 Plus by politicizing the issue.
Another pro-presidential daily, “Hayots Ashkhar,” also makes this point. It says the former authorities were less tolerant of independent media.