By Anna Saghabalian
A1+, Armenia’s leading independent television station pulled off the air four years ago, is facing an even more uncertain future after being squeezed out of its state-owned offices in Yerevan.
The company vacated on Saturday the 11 rooms which it has leased from the National Academy of Sciences for over a decade and was only allowed to briefly use another room in the same building until its move to a different location. The tiny room was crammed on Monday with television equipment and staff working on what could be the last issue of A1+’s weekly newspaper, “Ayb-Fe.”
The TV station, famous for its hard-hitting coverage of Armenia’s government, had to leave the premises after an unsuccessful court battle with the Academy. The latter decided early last year to reclaim the premises and give them to the staff of its two research institutes that are to be relocated from another building in the city center.
The A1+ management said that the decision was ordered by the Armenian government and demanded a compensation for $32,000 which it claims to have invested in the property. A court in Yerevan rejected the demand.
The eviction sparked an uproar from local media associations, leading the government to offer the embattled TV station to move to an alternative location elsewhere in the city center. However, the property is in disrepair and lacks elementary amenities such as electricity and phone connection, meaning that A1+ will need weeks, if not months, to settle in.
“We are forced to stand idle, I don’t know for how long,” the station’s owner and director, Mesrop Movsesian, told RFE/RL. “I don’t know when and how a solution can be found.”
Movsesian said his company will have trouble continuing to publish its newspaper and popular news website and meeting its contractual obligations to regional TV stations that still commission programs from A1+.
A1+, the only national channel that was not loyal to the administration of President Robert Kocharian, was forced off the air in April 2002 just hours after losing its air frequency in a supposedly competitive tender that was administered by a Kocharian-controlled body. It has since participated in 11 other frequency contests and lost all of them.
The Armenian authorities have refused to enable the channel to resume broadcasts despite pressure from the Council of Europe and other international watchdogs.
(Photolur photo: Mesrop Movsesian.)