“Although the parliament opposition was convinced yesterday that it thwarted the adoption of a package of amendments to the laws on television and radio and state duties, there were all the grounds to assert that if the parliament majority very much wanted to or if it was instructed to ensure the bill’s second-reading passage, it would definitely ensure strong attendance and a sufficient number of votes,” writes “Azg.” The paper points to the absence of many pro-government deputies from Tuesday’s session of the National Assembly.”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” counters government supporters’ claims that RFE/RL jeopardizes Armenia’s “information security.” “How does Radio Liberty jeopardize Armenia’s security? When there is a rally in Yerevan, they say there was a rally. When elections are rigged, they say there was vote rigging. When an official blurts out yet another nonsense, they put it on the air.” The pro-opposition paper adds that what the Armenian authorities care about is not Armenia’s interests but “their personal comfort.”
“Given President Robert Kocharian’s persistence, one should not doubt that he will again bring the bills stripping Radio Liberty of air to the parliament,” writes “Aravot.” “That this is personally done by Kocharian is clear. The government and the parliament would not want to lower their already low approval rating. But even in this atmosphere of fear, there were decent people, one of whom spoke out and another voted against those drafts,” the paper says, referring to Prosperous Armenia deputy Vahe Hovannisian and businessman Khachatur Sukiasian.
“According to some reports, they are very angry at the presidential palace about the defeat of the bill,” says “Hayk.” “Robert Kocharian is preparing to summon [leaders of] the parliament majority and scold them.” The paper says the bill will be re-introduced during the autumn session of the National Assembly because “for Kocharian, the closure of Radio Liberty is a matter of principle.” “So the fight has yet to come,” it concludes.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” likewise contends that the danger of a government ban on RFE/RL broadcasts has not been eliminated. “The thing is that the term of the [retransmission] agreement between Public Radio and Liberty expired in February this year and was not extended,” explains the paper. “The head of Public Radio, Armen Amirian, said that a new agreement is undergoing a legal examination which will be complete soon. After that the agreement will have to be discussed by the board of Public Television and Radio and, in case of the latter’s consent, Public Radio will sign it. But it may also not sign. The whole purpose of bringing those bills to the National Assembly was to shift responsibility for not signing such an agreement from the Public Television and Radio board to the National Assembly, something which did not work out.” The paper says the authorities will now try to block RFE/RL broadcasts either by pushing the bill through the parliament or simply not signing a new retransmission agreement.