By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s leading independent television station that was pulled off their air three years ago said on Friday it will resist eviction from its premises after losing a court battle with their owner, the National Academy of Sciences.
“I am not going to leave this building [willingly],” Mesrop Movsesian, the director and owner of the A1+ TV company, told RFE/RL. “Let the bailiffs clear the premises and throw us out, stop our newspaper and our web site.”
The Armenian Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a ruling by a lower court ordering A1+ to vacate its editorial offices in central Yerevan which it has leased for more than 10 years.
The government-funded Academy says it needs the office space to accommodate the staff of its two research institutes that were relocated last year from another building handed over to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
A+ demands a compensation for $32,000 which it claims to have invested in the property and points to an earlier agreement with the Academy leadership. But Academy officials say the agreement was never officially certified and therefore has no legal force.
Movsesian and his staff insist that the eviction order is part of a government effort to perpetuate the de facto ban on the only Armenian channel that often criticized President Robert Kocharian.
A1+ was forced off the air in April 2002 after a controversial tender for its broadcasting license that was granted to a newly created pro-government company. The move was condemned by local and international media groups as a serious blow to press freedom in Armenia.
A1+ has since tried to remain afloat by producing programs for regional television stations, publishing a weekly newspaper and running an online news service. Its repeated attempts to receive a new air frequency were blocked by a regulatory commission appointed by Kocharian.
The once popular channel will have 20 days to vacate the premises after the verdict’s entry into force or face forcible eviction.
(Photolur photo: Mesrop Movsesian.)