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Armenian TV Station Owner Hopeful Of Regaining License

Logo of the A1+ broadcaster
Logo of the A1+ broadcaster
YEREVAN -- The owner of an Armenian television station that was denied a license and shut down in 2002 says he is optimistic the station will get a license and resume broadcasting by the end of this year, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

Mesrop Movsesian made his comment on April 2, the eighth anniversary of a decision by the National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH) to
revoke the broadcasting frequency of A1+ and give it to a broadcaster that was loyal to the government.

A1+, backed by local and international media watchdogs, denounced the decision as retaliation for its critical news coverage of then-President Robert
Kocharian. It has since tried unsuccessfully to win another frequency in more than a dozen tenders administered by the HRAH, whose members are appointed by the president.

Authorities maintained the de facto ban even after the European Court of Human Rights fined them in June 2008 over the HRAH's consistent rejection of A1+ applications for a new frequency.

Later in 2008, the Armenian parliament approved government-drafted legal amendments that froze the holding of any more tenders until July 2010.

The government claimed that the delay is necessary for expediting the country's planned transition to mandatory digital broadcasting by 2012. But government critics believe its real purpose was to fend off renewed Western pressure for the reopening of A1+ in the wake of the disputed presidential election in February 2008.

Movsesian said that A1+ is already preparing for new tenders expected to be held in the second half of this year. He predicted that international pressure will force the HRAH to give in and award a frequency to A1+.

The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights and six Armenian civic groups urged the authorities on April 2 to allow A1+ to return to the air.

"We call upon the Armenian authorities to provide conditions that will guarantee the freedom of expression in Armenia," they said in a joint statement. "Particularly, to provide impartiality and transparency of future tenders on broadcast licensing and thereby to ensure well-founded and justified decisions which will restore public trust."