A court in Yerevan ordered a leading pro-opposition newspaper on Monday to repay 2.6 million drams ($6,750) in what it described as publishing debts or face closure.
The court found substantiated the Gind printing house’s lawsuit against the “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun (Fourth Estate) daily and its parent company, Ogostos, filed earlier this year.
It already issued an injunction last week that bars “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” from publishing until the adjudication of the financial dispute. The paper changed its name to “Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” (Fourth Sovereignty) in order to circumvent the ban.
Its outspoken publisher and editor-in-chief, Shogher Matevosian, denounced the verdict as politically motivated and said she will appeal against it at higher courts. “I insist that this is a verdict ordered by the authorities,” she told RFE/RL, insisting that Ogostos has paid all of its printing bills.
Matevosian said that the paper has therefore no intention to pay up and will continue to publish under its altered name. That will be fraught with serious difficulties, however. The court ruling not only means that it be unable to use its original name but also suspends its journalists’ accreditations with various state bodies pending the payment.
Taguhi Tovmasian, a “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” parliamentary correspondent, said she has already been denied access to the National Assembly. “On Friday, they took my accreditation and said that until my newspaper resumes publication I will not be able to enter the parliament,” she said.
With a daily circulation of roughly 5,200 copies, “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” is one of the country’s best-selling dailies. The paper is known for his strong support for the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and harsh and often derogatory attacks on the government.