By Karine Kalantarian
The Court of Economic Arbitration issued the injunction late on Monday pending consideration of a lawsuit filed by another private station, Noyan Tapan, against a state body that awards the TV and radio frequencies.
Noyan Tapan, owned by the eponymous news agency, is protesting the refusal by the National Commission on Television and Radio to consider its bid. The commission refused to accept it on the grounds that the broadcaster did not specify the frequency it is bidding for.
The Noyan Tapan director, Tigran Harutiunian, insists that the law Armenian law on broadcasting has no such requirements. Speaking to RFE/RL on Tuesday, he again branded the decision "illegal" and welcomed the latest development.
However, the A1+ director, Mesrop Movsesian, deplored the court order, saying that the authorities are using the lawsuit as a pretext to prevent his popular channel from returning to the air before next year's presidential and parliamentary elections. "My staff were impatiently expecting to go on air soon, and their spirit has again been broken," the "Aravot" newspaper quoted him as saying.
Frequency bids by A1+ and a dozen other television and radio stations were due to be officially disclosed at a meeting of the broadcasting commission scheduled for Tuesday. It was cancelled after the injunction.
A1+ lost its frequency as a result of the first such tender held last April. Its outcome was condemned as politically motivated by local and international media watchdogs. For the channel known for its objective and unbiased news reporting, the current is the only possibility of winning back its broadcasting license.
Movsesian said earlier that even if A1+ is awarded a new frequency it might be physically unable to resume broadcasts before the presidential elections. The delay in the bidding process could finally shatter its hopes for covering the unfolding election campaign. With all other major TV stations rarely airing criticism of Kocharian, the Armenian president would thus gain additional advantage in his bid to win reelection.
Widely blamed for pulling the plug on A1+, Kocharian has reportedly promised the Council of Europe to ensure its reopening.
The first court hearing of the Noyan Tapan appeal is scheduled for December 2, and the entire legal battle may take weeks. Noyan Tapan's Harutiunian said he shares the A1+ concerns and has offered the broadcasting commission to reach an out-of-court compromise settlement that would allow his TV division to take part in the frequency contest.
The commission's chairman, Grigor Amalian, said the body will consider the offer this week.