TV Company License Revoked

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–According to the results of the April 2 voting of the members of the National Commission on TV and Radio–the "A1+"–"Noyan Tapan" TV companies were deprived of the right to broadcast their programs via decimeter channels. Anticipating the defeat of the two independent TV companies in the tender for TV frequency–a large crowd gathered before the building occupied by the National Commission on TV and Radio. Among them were deputies–representatives of various parties–US Embassy officials and ordinary TV viewers.

Despite the control–many of those present managed to get into the room in which the Commission was working–due to which the rating vote passed in a rather tense atmosphere.

After publicizing the Commission’s decisions which was unfavorable for "A1+" and "Noyan Tapan" the crowd went on a peaceful procession to the Parliament demanding the Commission’s decision be invalidated. Many of the present political figures called the Commission’s decision a political order by the authorities.

Thus–the head of the "Armat" organization–former Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Ara Sahakian thinks that a defeatist settlement of the Karabakh conflict is expected on the part of the present regime and "to let the people digest this decision unpleasant for the Armenian side–the authorities must close all the dissident channels."I consider the closing of ‘A1+’ and ‘Noyan Tapan’ as well as the possible political persecution–which I do not rule out–from the viewpoint that this is the program of the authorities–implemented with their western and northern patrons," Sahakian said.

Speaking about the upcoming elections–Ara Sahakian expressed confidence they will pass without dissidence objective elucidation–as a result of which "the Parliament will be replenished with the same criminal elemen’s for whom the Parliamentary activities are the continuation of their business." As for the presidential elections–Robert Kocharian–according to Sahakian–will try to "reproduce himself" to ensure his safety and his clan’s monopoly over the economy–"and this will be the price for mediators to pay for returning Karabakh to Azerbaijan."

According to the board member of the "Hanrapetutiun" (Republic) party former prime minister Aram Sargssian–the tender pursued political goals whose ultimate aim is "to have tractable mass media on the threshold of the elections." He pointed out that the two-year activities of the authorities resulted in demoralization of the people–which makes "such insolent steps" possible.

"Any civilized country must preserve freedom of speech and the press by all means–because free speech is the basis of democracy," US Embassy Public Affairs Section Head John Balian said. He emphasized that all the programs implemented by the Embassy in the information sphere are aimed at this. According to him–in particular–the US TV companies may be deprived of their right to broadcast only in case they have violated the law. Balian also emphasized that the people themselves must defend their right to receive free and independent information.

Then the procession headed for Liberty Square where a group of politicians announced the start of a sit-in. Ashot Bleyan–the leader of the "Nor Ughi" (New Way) party said that the sit-in would not be stopped until "A1+" receives a right to 24-hour broadcasting.

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