By Shakeh Avoyan
A1+, an independent Armenian television shut down by the authorities last April, has lost any chance of resuming its broadcasts before next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, its director Mesrop Movsesian said on Saturday. Movsesian charged that President Robert Kocharian has succeeded in preventing most Armenians from getting a balanced and objective coverage of his reelection campaign.
The grim conclusion followed yet delay in a court action that suspended last month a crucial bidding for television frequencies which was seen as the only real possibility of A1+’s return to the air. Earlier this week, a state commission regulating broadcasting appealed a court ruling forcing it to accept a bid from another private television station, Noyan Tapan.
The tender, originally scheduled for November 18, was suspended by the Armenian Court of Economic Arbitration after Noyan Tapan protested its exclusion by the National Commission on Television and Radio. A1+ suspects that the move was the result of a secret deal between Noyan Tapan and the authorities aimed at preventing the resumption of its broadcasts before the presidential elections.
Movsesian said the broadcasting commission’s decision to appeal the court ruling may drag out the legal proceedings until next April. He said A1+ will not be able to cover even the May parliamentary elections and could be reinstated only after them.
Western governments, international organizations and media watchdogs have repeatedly urged the Armenian authorities to reopen the popular channel before the 2003 elections. A senior official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on December 10 that that is essential for the freedom and fairness of the polls.