By Hrach Melkumian
The editor of a daily newspaper sympathetic to the Armenian opposition confirmed on Monday reports that he has accepted an offer to manage a private television station made by its new pro-government owner.
Aram Abrahamian of the “Aravot” daily told RFE/RL that he agreed to take over as director general of the Kentron TV because he was given a blank check to ensure a “free, unrestricted and impartial” coverage of events in Armenia.
The surprise news follows the channel’s unexpected sale by its previous owner, businessman Gurgen Arsenian. Arsenian, who also leads a small pro-presidential party represented in parliament, has not yet commented on his motives.
Abrahamian revealed that Kentron’s buyer is Murad Guloyan, a little-known businessman and lawmaker representing Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK). “He has no political interests or ambitions,” the editor said. “For him this just a business and this is how I perceive mass media.”
Kentron was set up by a government-linked entertainment company in early 2002 shortly before being controversially awarded a broadcasting frequency used by A1+, the sole major channel that often aired reports critical of President Robert Kocharian. The closure of A1+, condemned by domestic and international media groups, is widely believed to have been politically motivated. The Armenian authorities have refused to lift the de facto ban despite repeated calls by the Council of Europe.
Like all other major private networks, Kentron has been supportive of Kocharian and critical of his political opponents. However, the channel’s news coverage has become more objective and balanced in recent months. Its difference from the other TV stations was particularly visible during this month’s opposition demonstrations in Yerevan.
Abrahamian, whose newspaper has harshly criticized Kocharian throughout his presidency, denied that the decision to put him at the helm of Kentron is aimed making the reopening of A1+ less urgent in the eyes of the international community. “If anyone tries to impose anything on me I will immediately resign,” he said.
Kentron will suspend its broadcasts for two weeks and will resume its work with a different name, Aravot TV. Abrahamian will continue to edit the eponymous newspaper.
(RFE/RL photo: Abrahamian making his first appearance on Kentron TV in the new capacity on Monday.)