Statement by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
(Washington, DC--July 24, 2007) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its oversight agency, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), expressed dismay at Armenian Public Radio's rejection of a new contract to continue carrying programs of RFE/RL's Armenian Service.
RFE/RL Armenian programs have been aired on Armenian Public Radio -- Armenia's top radio network -- since 1998, where they have earned the trust of a significant number of listeners. Survey data shows that 15 percent of Armenian adults listen to RFE/RL programs each week.
Three days of discussions in Yerevan, Armenia last week between U.S. and Armenian broadcast officials ended without agreement on a new contract to replace one that had lapsed in February.
"Our delegation was asked to go to Yerevan to iron out some minor technical issues and conclude a contract to extend this successful partnership,” said BBG Chairman James K. Glassman. "All these issues were resolved. Our delegation was told there are no deadlines, and no threat was made to take RFE/RL programs off Public Radio. Yet the contract remains unsigned, and our offers to make payment were refused. It seems clear that whatever is holding up an agreement has nothing to do with legal, contractual, or technical issues."
"We value our relationship with Armenian Public Radio," added Glassman, "and certainly want it to continue. We look forward to signing the contract, and making all payments stipulated in the contract, as soon as our partners in Armenia tell us they are ready."
The Armenian parliament on July 3 did not adopt amendments to the country's media regulations that would have banned RFE/RL and other foreign broadcasters from public airwaves. One week later, Armenian Public Radio indicated that it planned to stop RFE/RL broadcasts on August 9, citing contractual and payment issues. Last week's visit to Armenia by RFE/RL and BBG contracting officials was intended to resolve these issues.
"The potential end of our very fruitful relationship with Public Radio has no economic or other legitimate justification," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "Armenians go to the polls in eight months to choose their next President, and therefore it is particularly important that RFE/RL's broadcasts, which are widely respected for their accuracy, objectivity and timeliness, reach the largest possible audience. Our coverage of the May 12 parliamentary elections was singled out for praise by OSCE observers for its balance and thoroughness."
RFE/RL's Armenian Service has been on the air since 1953 and produces more than three and one half hours of Armenian-language programming daily in Prague and its Yerevan Bureau. Armenian Service programming is available via satellite, local affiliates and the Internet, at the service's website http://www.azatutyun.am and at http://www.rferl.org; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found on the RFE/RL website, at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/armenia.html