Newspapers present a broad range of opinions about the Armenian government’s controversial bill on mass media.
“Ayb-Fe” claims that after getting away with the scandalous closure of the A1+ channel the authorities have “decided to attack the several publications that are still able to think independently of the government’s will.” The paper says parliament will remove on Wednesday “the last obstacle to Robert Kocharian’s absolute power.”
But one of the authors of the bill, Deputy Minister of Justice Ashot Abovian, again assures “Haykakan Zhamanak” that “this law will be among Europe’s best laws, if not the best one.”
According to “Hayots Ashkhar,” not a single “self-sufficient” media organization exists in Armenia at present. And that, the paper believes, is the biggest constraint on press freedom in the country. “The information business is not profitable in Armenia, and the freedom of speech is therefore not profitable either. In other words, it does not exist.” The paper concludes its editorial with a point that Armenians will not be able to exercise their basic civil rights as long as most of them do not enjoy decent living standards.
In a separate commentary, “Hayots Ashkhar” says bickering inside the governing coalition has relegated to background the standoff between the authorities and the opposition. “The coalition members have only themselves to blame for that because no one prevents them from acting in accordance with the coalition declaration signed by them,” the paper says, adding that the coalition deal has repeatedly been breached by the signatories. “If this practice continues, the coalition can not have a long life.”
“Aravot” says President Robert Kocharian exposed his frustration with Diaspora businessmen’s lack of interest in the Armenian economy in his speech at the Armenia-Diaspora business conference on Monday. Kocharian made no mention of administrative and legal problems facing foreign investors in Armenia. He instead complained about Diaspora Armenians’ mentality. The paper says they may be right in seeking government privileges because many local entrepreneurs already have them. “Maybe that is why the Diaspora is in no hurry to make investments,” it says.
The need to ensure fair competition for foreign and local investors is stressed by tobacco tycoon Hrant Vartanian in an interview with “Hayots Ashkhar.” Vartanian says Kocharian and other Armenian leaders must establish a “dictatorship of law” and become “particularly intolerant of any manifestations of corruption.” “In my opinion, it is high time for wealthy people to be held accountable before the state budget for their property,” he says, calling for an extra income tax on the rich. “If the state levied a tax on luxurious life from me in addition to the regular taxes, I might have been able to look middle-class and socially vulnerable people in the eyes without shame,” Vartanian declares.