Popular newspaper editor takes over MP-owned television company

Heir to Air: Popular newspaper editor takes over MP-owned television company
30 April 2004

By Zhanna Alexanyan
ArmeniaNow reporter
The editor of a leading oppositional newspaper has taken over leadership of
a Yerevan television company that has tangential government affiliation.
The new director.

Aram Abrahamyan, editor of Aravot (Morning), Armenia’s leading daily, has
been named director of the former Kentron (Center) television company, an
enterprise recently purchased by pro-government National Assembly member and
businessman Murad Guloyan. The newly-named company will air May 10.

The TV company was previously owned (for one year) by another MP, Gurgen
Arsenyan. Recent coverage by the channel of oppositional party
demonstrations was not favorable for the government, leading to speculation
that Arsenyan was later pressured by authorities to sell the company.

The appointment has raised questions of whether the oppositional journalist
and the MP-owned television company will have matching ambitions for how the
station should position itself in Armenia’s media, broadly divided according
to political persuasion.

Media observers are further intrigued that Abrahamyan will be inheriting a
channel that, in its inception two years ago, helped kick A1+ off the
airwaves, stirring a controversy alleging government censorship which
continues these two years later.

(In April 2002, A1+, the republic’s leading oppositional channel, lost its
license in a disputed bidding war in which a presidential-appointed
commission gave the license to Sharm, primarily an entertainment and
advertising company that did not even have a reporting staff at the time.
Guloyan bought the company last week .)

Abrahamyan was in fact a co-founder, with Mesrop Movsisyan, of A1+ in 1991
and until the channel lost its license, was host of its most popular talk
show, “Post Script”.

Abrahamyan says he puts his journalistic reputation behind his new role and
that Aravot television will in fact join efforts to see A1+ resume
broadcast. But he says any speculation that Aravot will become the new A1+
are “absurd”.

“The Aravot TV, which I will be heading will become a rostrum from where we
will always speak about the opening of A1+,” Abrahamyan says. “I will be
participating in all kinds of events (marches, demonstrations) which will be
organized in support of A1+.”

Abrahamyan goes so far, in fact, to say that should the National TV and
Radio Commission hold a contest for the 37 th frequency (currently held by
Aravot, but previously belonging to A1+), “we will not take part in it and
will do everything possible to help A1+ win the contest”.

The new director dismisses notions that either his newspaper or his
television company should be labeled.

“Political figures can be oppositional or pro-governmental but these
categories must not touch us,” he says.

Guloyan, who is in his first term as MP, was elected on the ticket of the
Republican party (though he, himself, is not a member). Not a well-known
figure in Armenia, he is the owner of Milta, a food-production company. He
comes from the same village as Armenian strongman Gagik “Dodi Gago”
Tsarukyan. Some interested parties have speculated that the powerful
millionaire is behind the purchase of the television company, which is
believed to have sold for $500,000.

Recent news programming (prior to Guloyan’s purchase) by Kentron was praised
by Abrahamyan, especially for its coverage of the violent April 13 clash
between State police and oppositional protestors.

Kentron, “was the most independent media among all others,” Abrahamyan says.

But others are claiming that those very reports riled the government and
that Arsenyan was “forced” by high-level government officials to sell his
company because of his company’s broadcast of the clashes between police and

It is an opinion shared by A1+ director Mesrop Movsesyan.

Movsesyan says that, when A1+ was denied its license, President Robert
Kocharyan promised to create another company like it. Kentron, Movsisyan
says, was to have been that channel.

“The president wanted to do that via Gurgen Arsenyan,” Movsisyan says, “but
when Arsenyan stumbled, he was forced to sell Kentron.”

Unofficial talk in Yerevan is that Kocharyan in fact called a meeting with
Arsenyan following the broadcasts of the April 13 events.

Ashot Kocharyan, spokesman for the President told ArmeniaNow there is no
record of a meeting between the President and Arsenayn. The spokesman had no
comment on rumors to that effect.

ArmeniaNow attempted to get Arsenyan’s version of the claims. He said he is
reserving comment on the matter until after the new company begins its
broadcast. Asked whether Arsenyan had been pressured into selling Kentron,
an assistant for Arsenyan said the MP “does not wish to speak about it now”.

Movsesyan, meanwhile, criticizes his former colleague Abrahamyan for taking
the directorship of a company that effectively put A1+ off the air.

“By making that decision, he (Abrahamyan) demonstrated that he has changed
his team,” Movsisyan said. “Of course, this country always needed an
imitator like Aram in the struggle of freedom of speech, and such person was
found. Aram is a good journalist and he can create an imitation of an
independent channel. I’m only surprised that he agreed to that.”

Abrahamyan, though, refutes accusations that he has switched his political
allegiance by assuming a position seen as connected to the government.

The journalist says he is confident the new owner will not use the
television company as a rostrum for advancing his politics.

“It’s just a business for him to make investments for gaining profits in the
future,” Abrahamyan says. “I’m sure this is the only way for creating
independent media. Media, but not the means for propaganda.”

Abrahamyan, a musicologist by profession, graduated Yerevan State
Conservatory and defended his Ph.D. thesis. He served as press secretary for
the first president after independence, Levon Ter Pertrosyan. He became
editor of Aravot newspaper in 1994.

Before hosting the A1+ talk show, Abrahamyan had been host of various music

“I always dreamt of working in TV,” he says. “When I first came to TV in
1983 I realized it was my world and I had always been dreaming of working

His aim at Aravot TV, he says, is to direct a company that serves the public
need for reliable information.

“The strategic goal of the TV company is to become an informational and
public channel like Freedom radio station,” says Abrahamyan.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS