Armen Zakarian, Harry Tamrazian in Prague
On Wednesday, the district court of Nork-Marash and Central Yerevan,
agreed to the request of 36 supporters of the A1+ TV to replace judge Hrahcik Hovannisian. A1+ TV was shut down by the decision of the National Commission on Radio and TV broadcasting. The Commission, appointed by President Robert Kocharian ruled last April to grant the frequency used by the A1+ channel to an entertainment company with reported links to the government.
The group of 36 supporters claims that the regulatory commission has violated their fundamental right of freedom of speech by denying consumers the right to watch a TV program of their choice. A1+ TV supporters have filed an official complaint in the Yerevan District Court on May 29 requesting to overrule the decision of the regulatory commission on broadcasting.
The representatives of the consumer group supporting A1+ TV, Ashot Bleyan, Vigen Khachatrian and a member of the opposition party "Hanrapetutyun", Artak Zeynalian praised the court's decision of approving their demand, saying that the Court finally understood their complaints, that Judge Hovannisian has several times violated court procedures. "This creates a new legal environment for our case", former minister of education Ashot Bleyan told RFE/RL.
A1+ TV supporters hope that a new trial will start soon and with a new
judge they are determined to push their case forward. The spokesman for the group Ashot Bleyan said that they had enough time to read the international legal documents, which pertain to the A1+ case and are now well prepared to defend consumer rights to exercise their right to an envorinment of free of speech.
The A1+ TV station lost last month its own court battle to resume its broadcasts. The Armenian Court of Appeals upheld an earlier court ruling which found the popular A1+ channel's effective closure legal.
The A1+ staff, backed by the country's leading opposition parties, say that the outcome of these trials was politically motivated and accuse Kocharian of stifling dissent ahead of presidential elections due next March. Kocharian denies the charges.
The US and other western human rights organizations, as well as the Council of Europe criticized Armenian authorities for taking an
independent TV channel off the air and urged the Armenian president to consider reopening A1+.
According to senior Council of Europe officials who met him in May, President Robert Kocharian has pledged to help the independent A1+ channel resume its broadcasts soon.