YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The owner of Armenia’s main newspaper printing house says he will not resume the publication of a number of local newspapers until they repay debts totaling 90 million drams ($180,000).
Vrezh Markosian of the publishing house "Tigran Mets" told RFE/RL Friday that he will not make concessions to those papers–including the country’s two leading opposition dailies–"Azg" and "Golos Armenii." None of those papers affected has published an issue yet in 1998.
Markosian said his newly-privatized company itself is in a difficult financial situation–owing 40 million drams in taxes.
He said even those papers that are still publishing have debts to the printing house–and threatened to take similar action against them unless they repay the money in the next few days.
Many of the indebted publications have complained that they in turn are owed large sums by the state newspaper distribution agency "Haymamul," which handles virtually all of their printed copies.
Meanwhile–in an interview with our correspondent–"Haymamul" chief Manvel Karagian denied the accusations–saying that his agency’s sole debt is one of 3 million drams to the daily "Azg."
He promised to pay the debt within a week.
Observers note that most of the four dailies that have published this week support the government. Markosian denied there is any political motivation behind his actions–however.
The Armenian government promised to improve the plight of the media after most of the local press went on a one-day strike in early December. It is not clear whether media workers plan any similar coordinated actions in the near future.