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Armenia: Thousands Rally To Condemn Independent TV Closure

Yerevan, 5 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- More than 10,000 people rallied today in Yerevan to condemn the closure of Armenia's main independent television station, which has often been critical of authorities. Leaders from the 14 opposition parties that organized the demonstration warned President Robert Kocharian that there will be a nationwide campaign of "civil disobedience" unless he ensures that the A1 Plus channel can resume broadcasts within a week.

The opposition party leaders said Kocharian ordered a state commission on broadcasting to strip A1 Plus of its frequency on 2 April. The commission granted a tender for the frequency to an entertainment company with reported links to the presidential administration. The regulatory body appointed by Kocharian said the Sharm company submitted a stronger bid.

The Armenian leader has denied any involvement in the bidding. But opposition leaders addressing today's rally accused Kocharian of stifling dissent ahead of presidential elections due next year.

Kocharian is scheduled to meet tomorrow with a group of A1 Plus reporters.