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Gedmin Dismayed By Armenian Efforts To Ban RFE/RL From Public Airwaves

(Washington, DC--June 30, 2007) RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin criticised legislation under consideration in the Armenian parliament that would ban the rebroadcast of RFE/RL Armenian Service programming on the public airwaves. He expressed hope, however, that the legislation would not gain final approval and actually become law.

"This legislation, which formally bans the rebroadcast of any foreign-produced Armenian language programs on public broadcast channels, is clearly targeted at RFE/RL's Armenian language broadcasts. It would set a dangerous precendent for public media in all of the countries of the former Soviet Union, where people have listened for decades to RFE and RL broadcasts in order to get news otherwise unavailable from local, state-run media. I hope that Armenia's parliamentarians will reconsider their support for this flawed bill."

The draft legislation, passed on the first of two readings today, not only bans rebroadcasting of foreign radio programs on Armenia's public airwaves, but would also impose a tax of 70,000 Armenian drams, or more than $200, per program per day for every time a private station rebroadcast a foreign-produced program. This tax represents a 70-fold increase over the fees broadcasters must pay to retransmit a locally-produced program.

The bill was presented in parliament by Armenian Minister of Justice Gevorg Danielian and is backed by Armenia's ruling coalition.

RFE/RL is the only foreign-produced, Armenian-language program being rebroadcast by Public Radio of Armenia, on both its First and Second Programs. In addition to rebroadcasts on Public Radio of Armenia, RFE/RL programs are also heard on the private stations Radio Hay and Radio Ardzagank. RFE/RL Armenian Service programming is also available via satellite broadcasts and the Internet, at the service's website and at; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found on the RFE/RL website.