By Ruzanna Stepanian
A prominent media editor and commentator critical of the government pledged on Monday to ensure an objective and unbiased coverage of developments in Armenia as his revamped television station returned to the air after a two-week hiatus.
The private Kentron (Center) television suspended broadcasts after a change of owner and the appointment of Aram Abrahamian, the editor of the “Aravot” (Morning) daily, as its chief executive. Abrahamian, whose newspaper is sympathetic to the Armenian opposition, says it will be markedly different from the other Armenian channels that are effectively controlled by the authorities.
“I have reached agreement with the owner to the effect that he will not meddle in purely political matters,” he told RFE/RL. “That is, if he phones me and says ‘Please do not air this criticism’ or ‘Do not say bad things about this guy’, I will quit immediately.”
Abrahamian said the channel, renamed Aravot TV, has undergone virtually no “serious changes” in its programming and staff. Only one new program dealing with news and current affairs will be introduced in the coming weeks, he said.
The new owner is Murad Guloyan, a little-known businessman who was elected to parliament last year on the governing Republican Party’s ticket. Guloyan reportedly has business interests in Belgium and Russia, and has recently bought a poultry farm in Armenia’s northwestern Shirak region. He has not yet publicly commented on his motives for purchasing the TV company from another wealthy pro-establishment parliamentarian, Gurgen Arsenian.
Arsenian in turn acquired the former Kentron last year from a government-linked entertainment company that was controversially awarded the broadcasting license of Armenia’s leading independent television, A1+, two years ago. The de facto closure of A1+ is widely believed to have been politically motivated. The Armenian authorities have kept the once popular channel off the air despite strong domestic and international pressure.
Incidentally, Abrahamian had for years hosted a live phone-in talk show on A1+. His decision to accept Guloyan’s job offer has been condemned by A1+ director Mesrop Movsesian and his staff. They say Abrahamian’s appointment is aimed at creating a semblance of media independence and diversity in Armenia. But the Aravot TV boss denies the claims, saying that he will prove his critics wrong.