By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The new chief of Armenian state television and radio pledged Thursday to follow in the footsteps of his murdered predecessor Tigran Naghdalian in managing the country’s largest broadcasting organization. Aleksan Harutiunian, who was a top aide to President Robert Kocharian before the latest appointment, said the killing will not scare him away from pursuing policies and disseminating views favored by Naghdalian.
“If those who carried out the murder wanted to intimidate his friends, they have failed badly,” Harutiunian said in an interview with RFE/RL. “I am in a resolute mood and think that everyone will see that soon.”
Like Naghdalian, Harutiunian is a longtime supporter of Kocharian, having held senior posts in the presidential administration since 1998. He, however, denies having personally overseen the work of the state-run Armenian Public Television and Radio which harshly criticized the opposition under Naghdalian.
Harutiunian said he will be “tolerant” of the opposition and will ensure that Kocharian’s challengers have equal access to the TV air in the run-up to next month’s presidential elections. “All candidates will enjoy equal conditions in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law,” he said.
“I believe that the opposition and the government together form Armenia’s political landscape and are both important,” he added.
Armenian opposition leaders, the main targets of the government’s propaganda machine, were particularly angry with state television’s weekly “Orakarg” (Agenda) analytical program presented by Naghdalian. He frequently derided their actions as part of his efforts to further Kocharian’s agenda.
Opposition fury with “Orakarg” led some of Naghdalian’s associates to allege that the December 28 shooting was the work of Kocharian’s political opponents. The latter have strongly denied the charges, accusing the authorities of planning an anti-opposition “witch hunt” ahead of the presidential ballot.
Although Harutiunian said he will not moderate the controversial TV show, it was not clear whether he will introduce any changes in its style and format. He said only that he plans no staff changes at the TV channel.