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Armenian TV Station Says Government Trying To Close It

GALA TV logo
GYUMRI, Armenia -- An independent television station based in Armenia's second city of Gyumri says the government is trying to force it off the air by freezing its assets and bank accounts for allegedly unpaid taxes, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The GALA TV station said on April 9 that in addition to freezing its assets, the State Revenue Committee also impounded last week new equipment purchased by the station from abroad.

The committee claims the private broadcaster owes 822,000 drams ($2,100) in fines imposed for its failure to pay taxes in 2007-08.

GALA owner Vahan Khachatrian denounced the measure as illegal and insisted that his company has no outstanding tax obligations. "We are not going to pay those fines," he told RFE/RL, adding that the charges were "baseless."

GALA was already accused of tax evasion shortly after breaking ranks with the government and providing paid air time to opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrossian in September 2007.

A fundraising telethon in early 2008 allowed it to pay almost 27 million drams (about $70,000) in fines imposed by the tax authorities and thus avoid closure.

GALA last month accused the authorities in Gyumri of forcing local businesses to stop buying commercial air time from what is the only TV channel that regularly airs criticism of the government.

Khachatrian claimed that the tax dispute was part of another government effort to pull the plug on his station.

The State Revenue Committee, meanwhile, denied on April 9 any political motives behind its accusations and punitive measures against the channel.

"The GALA TV company is not receiving special attention from the State Revenue Committee, and we treat the company in the same way as we treat other economic entities," it said in a statement.