By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian has promised to find new office space for Armenia’s most famous independent TV station which was forced off the air three years ago and is now facing eviction from its government-owned premises.
A government spokeswoman told RFE/RL on Monday that Markarian has instructed the head of the government’s Department on State Property Management, Karine Kirakosian, to look for a new location for the embattled A1+ channel. The official, Meri Harutiunian, said he expects Kirakosian to “satisfy the request” of the A1+ owner and director, Mesrop Movsesian.
Movsesian wrote to the Armenian premier on July 20, asking for his intervention in his company’s dispute with the National Academy of Sciences which owns the building in central Yerevan where A1+ has been based ever since its creation in 1996. The letter came as A1+ was forced to vacate two of its eight editorial rooms following its defeat in a court battle with the Academy which wants its property back. It was supposed to leave the other offices by July 23.
The broadcaster has tried unsuccessfully to get a financial compensation for $32,000 which it claims to have invested in the premises. Movsesian believes that the eviction was initiated by the authorities with the aim of finally closing his company. “I am still waiting for the prime minister’s reply,” he told RFE/RL earlier on Monday.
It also emerged that the president of the Academy, Fadey Sargsian, and Movsesian reached an agreement last week allowing A1+ to continue to occupy most of its remaining premises until it finds new office space. Sargsian informed the prime minister’s office about the deal in a letter.
A1+ was the only Armenian channel that regularly aired criticism of President Robert Kocharian until losing its air frequency in an April 2002 tender that was condemned as politically motivated by domestic and international media groups. It still occasionally produces programs for regional TV stations in addition to publishing a popular news website and a weekly newspaper.