By Anush Dashtents
Armenia's main independent television station, forced off the air by the authorities two months ago, announced on Monday that it will start publishing a daily newspaper later this month, as part of its struggle for the resumption of its broadcasts.
The A1+ channel's director, Mesrop Movsesian, told RFE/RL that the publication has been named after its popular "Ayb-Fe" (A to Z) news program and will print its first issue "in ten days time."
"It will be the same program reproduced on paper with the same style, same position," he said.
The channel, which was often critical of the authorities, lost its air frequency on April 2 in a controversial tender conducted by a presidentially appointed commission on television and radio. Its de facto closure, widely blamed on President Robert Kocharian, has been criticized by the United States and leading international media watchdogs.
A1+ has filed several lawsuits against the results of the bidding and has lost all of them. Movsesian said this only proves that the commission's decision was politically motivated. He said that reinstating A1+ through an Armenian court verdict is now "beyond our powers" and that his TV company now plans to take the matter to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg.
According to Movsesian, the new daily will mainly be funded by A1+ and the recently formed Armenian Fund for Press Freedom. The fund is headed by
Vartan Harutiunian, a Soviet-era dissident and former member of the presidential commission on human rights. It was created in the wake of the channel's closure which raised domestic and international concerns about the future of independent media in Armenia.
A visiting senior official from the Council of Europe said on May 16 that the Strasbourg-based organization shares those concerns and conveyed them to Kocharian. Ambassador Pietro Ago, who leads an ad hoc group monitoring Armenia's compliance with its Council of Europe membership obligations, said Kocharian pledged to help A1+ return to the air. Ago indicated that the channel will stand a good chance of winning a competitive tender for another frequency later this year.