2005 World Press Freedom Review


[08:50 pm] 30 March, 2006

The embattled television station A1+ continued to have problems in
2005. In January, the Armenian Academy of Sciences continued its
demands that the company vacate the premises it used at one of the
Yerevan buildings, which also hosted a number of media editorial
offices. The company has been off the air since April 2002, when
National Commission on Television and Radio refused to give A1+ a
broadcasting licence. The company has participated in seven licence
tenders since that time, but without success. According to the
Yerevan Press Club, A1+ currently operates as a production studio,
along with the editorial office of a popular Web site ,
the Ayb-Feh weekly, and the television training courses of A1+’s
founder, Meltex LLC.

The station was evicted from its premises in July, and it was given
notice to vacate its office in the Armenian Academy of Sciences by
23 July. A1+ now largely produces programmes for regional television
stations, as well as keeping a Web site and publishing a weekly

However, later in July, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian asked the
head of the governmental Department of State Property Management to
find alternative premises A1+. The station also found a compromise
with the Academy of Sciences President Fadey Sarkisian and may continue
to occupy its offices until new accommodations were found.

According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) report, the
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will most likely agree to hold
hearings and make a ruling on the hotly disputed 2002 closure of A1+
in January 2006.

On the afternoon of 1 April, the car of Samvel Alexanyan,
editor-in-chief of the Syunats Yerkir newspaper, was burned in the yard
of his house in Goris, in the southeastern region of Kapan. According
to reports, Alexanyan received threats after he gave an interview
to the Novoye Vremya newspaper on 12 March. He issued a statement
on the same day in which he accused the regional administrator Surik
Khachatrian of instigating an arson attack that destroyed his car.

According to RFE/RL, Alexanyan claimed Khachatrian was angered by an
interview Alexanyan gave to a Yerevan newspaper in March. Alexanyan
similarly blamed Khachatrian for an attack on his newspaper’s premises
in autumn of 2004.

The subject of the 1915 murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians
in Ottoman Turkey continues to be a sore point in relations between
Armenia and Turkey.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian urged Turkey to acknowledge the
killings as a genocide when addressing the opening session of an
international conference in Yerevan on 20 April.

On 13 July, seven Armenian media groups, such as the Yerevan Press
Club and the Armenian Union of Journalists, released a joint letter
criticising the government’s proposed constitutional amendments. In
the letter, they argued that the constitutional amendments would
inadequately guarantee the independence of the National Commission
on Radio and Television, which regulates commercial broadcasting.

They also maintained that presidential power to appoint all nine
commission members should be curtailed, and that the Armenian
parliament must have the power to endorse or reject appointees to the
Commission. Criticism of the absence of any proposed changes to the
formation of the governing board of the Armenian Public Television
and Radio was also voiced.

The media groups also released a joint statement on 27 July,
in which they criticized a 21 July statement by the Council of
Europe’s Venice Commission, which positively evaluated the latest
version of draft constitutional amendments proposed by the Armenian
government. According to an RFE/RL report, the groups believe that the
Commission’s proposals on the freedom, independence, and diversity of
mass media are flawed and cannot put in place the necessary guarantees
of freedom of speech in Armenia.

According to RFE/RL, the draft constitutional amendments are to be
debated by the parliament on 29 August before being voted on in a
national referendum in November.

On 27 November, Armenia held a referendum on a package of draft
constitutional amendments to the 1995 constitution. A few international
monitors were present, and they and local observer groups reported
large-scale fraud, such as inflation of turnout numbers, ballot
stuffing and intimidation of observers. According to official results,
Armenians endorsed the amendments.


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