By Emil Danielyan
The United States on Wednesday expressed concern at the effective closure of the A1 Plus channel, saying that the move put press freedom in Armenia at risk. It also hinted that failure to enable A1 Plus to resume its broadcasts could call into question freedom and fairness of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia.
“The decision on April 2 to award TV frequency 37…to the Sharm group raises serious questions about the future of free and independent media in Armenia,” the U.S. embassy in Yerevan said in a statement.
“If the broad spectrum of political opinion loses its access to the media, this will only undercut Armenia's efforts to attain its place in the community of democratic nations, integrated in all appropriate international structures.”
The embassy said it hopes President Robert Kocharian will help the channel resume its activities. “A1 Plus performed a valuable public service in offering substantial media access to a broad spectrum of opinion makers, political leaders, and those holding differing views,” its statement reads. “In this context, we welcome President Kocharian's public statement that he would like to see A1 Plus stay on the air, and is willing to explore the options for this to happen.”
Kocharian promised Tuesday to meet the A1 Plus staff after his return from Central Asia “to think together what solutions could be found.”
The U.S. statement also appears to draw a link between the TV station’s return to the air and freedom and fairness of the elections due in 2003. It says: “One of the major criteria of whether elections are free and fair is the extent to which parties and candidates have effective ways to present their views to the electorate, particularly through television.”