During his tour of the radio’s office in the Armenian capital on a day that is still marked in some former Eastern Bloc countries as ‘Radio Day’ Sarkisian congratulated the Service’s management and staff on the occasion and had a nearly one-hour-long relaxed meeting with them.
In a brief interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service following the informal conversation, Sarkisian also extended his words of congratulations on the 60th anniversary of the official launch of Radio Free Europe being marked this month.
Armenia -- PM Tigran Sarkisian (in the center) poses for a group photo with some of RFE/RL Armenian Service staff members. 07May, 2011
He also assessed the work of RFE/RL in Armenia and generally. He said the radio station managed to “earn its own place” in Armenia when it gained an opportunity of free broadcast to the former Soviet republic in the 1990s.
“Radio Liberty is mostly known for its criticism exposing our problems and shortcomings. From our point of view, the more objective this criticism is, the stronger our country will be,” Sarkisian said.
“You advocate the values that prevail in the world today, such as democracy, freedom of speech… You try to expose problems that exist in Armenia in these fields and the government tries to respond to this criticism, and from this point of view, naturally, this dialogue is very useful for the country,” he added.
The prime minister said he himself listened to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service programs, but added that he hoped the station, which is known to end its missions in countries where democracy and freedom of speech become well established, would one day not be needed in Armenia as well.
“Radio Liberty has become an integral part of our life. That’s why you don’t even think about what would be if it were absent from the local market. Perhaps another opposition radio station would have immediately occupied its place. But from international experience we know that Radio Liberty yields its positions in societies where little room is left for criticism, they lose their listeners and the U.S. government stops their funding. My wish is for Radio Liberty to have this fate in Armenia as well. In other words, I want there to be few things in Armenia to criticize,” Sarkisian emphasized.
The prime minister’s schedule of the day also included a visit to the Public Radio of Armenia, which has been on the air since 1926.