RFE chief tells Kocharyan TV station was yanked by “pressure”

Oct 22, 2004

Interference: Radio Free Europe chief tells Kocharyan TV station was yanked
by “pressure”

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Thomas A. Dine today sent a letter
to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan this week, denouncing the
“Soviet-style” cancellation of the new RFE/RL Armenian Service news and
analysis program, “Azatutiun” by the private Armenian television station
Kentron. Dine urges President Kocharyan “to denounce this contemptible
Soviet-style act, and to help return “Azatutiun” to the air.”
In his letter, Dine asserts that he is “determined to get “Azatutiun” back
on the air and will make every effort to make that happen — including
raising this issue with the Bush Administration, the U.S. Congress, the
Council of Europe, and non-governmental organizations worldwide.”

“Azatutiun,” a new television program created by and featuring news and
analysis from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, was abruptly pulled from the
schedule of the local Armenian television station “Kentron” on October 13,
three days after it debuted to rave reviews on Kentron. (See related story.)
Although the television station’s management has made no comment on the
decision, it is widely suspected that Kentron was pressured to suspend
further broadcasts of the program, either by official interests or local
media competitors.
The suspension of the “Azatutiun” program has been widely covered in the
Armenian press. On October 14, “Aravot” daily alleged that the head of
Armenian state television and radio, Aleksan Harutiunyan, was instrumental
in the ban because he wanted RFE/RL to lease airtime from his channel and
pay for it. Harutiunyan, in an interview published by “Aravot” on October
15, denied any involvement in the suspension of “Azatutiun”. In his letter
to President Kocharyan, however, Dine states that he has been “personally
informed that this cancellation was the result of pressure from a high-level
Armenian government official.”
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service broadcasts four hours of programming a day to
Armenia, produced in Prague and the service’s Yerevan Bureau and transmitted
to listeners via shortwave, satellite and FM, AM, Cable Radio, UKV and
long-wave signals provided by local affiliate stations.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress