Armenian Public Radio Refuses To Re-Sign Contract For RFE/RL Programs

Radio Liberty is finished – and that is a fact of life. I guess – all we can do now is – fight, kick and curse, demonstrate, and at least hope for the online version of Radio LIberty.
I sometimes wonder – just how much worse can it get? It seems there’s no end to the downward movement of democracy in this country. Like a good friend told me today – if you start in Yerevan, and drive strictly south, how can you ever expect to get to Paris?
We are officially a dictatorship today – and I have no strength left inside to believe, that there is even a slight chance of democracy in this country anymore.

Statement by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
(Washington, DC–July 24, 2007) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its oversight agency, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), expressed dismay at Armenian Public Radio’s rejection of a new contract to continue carrying programs of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
RFE/RL Armenian programs have been aired on Armenian Public Radio — Armenia’s top radio network — since 1998, where they have earned the trust of a significant number of listeners. Survey data shows that 15 percent of Armenian adults listen to RFE/RL programs each week.
Three days of discussions in Yerevan, Armenia last week between U.S. and Armenian broadcast officials ended without agreement on a new contract to replace one that had lapsed in February.
“Our delegation was asked to go to Yerevan to iron out some minor technical issues and conclude a contract to extend this successful partnership,” said BBG Chairman James K. Glassman. “All these issues were resolved. Our delegation was told there are no deadlines, and no threat was made to take RFE/RL programs off Public Radio. Yet the contract remains unsigned, and our offers to make payment were refused. It seems clear that whatever is holding up an agreement has nothing to do with legal, contractual, or technical issues.”
“We value our relationship with Armenian Public Radio,” added Glassman, “and certainly want it to continue. We look forward to signing the contract, and making all payments stipulated in the contract, as soon as our partners in Armenia tell us they are ready.”
The Armenian parliament on July 3 did not adopt amendments to the country’s media regulations that would have banned RFE/RL and other foreign broadcasters from public airwaves. One week later, Armenian Public Radio indicated that it planned to stop RFE/RL broadcasts on August 9, citing contractual and payment issues. Last week’s visit to Armenia by RFE/RL and BBG contracting officials was intended to resolve these issues.
“The potential end of our very fruitful relationship with Public Radio has no economic or other legitimate justification,” said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. “Armenians go to the polls in eight months to choose their next President, and therefore it is particularly important that RFE/RL’s broadcasts, which are widely respected for their accuracy, objectivity and timeliness, reach the largest possible audience. Our coverage of the May 12 parliamentary elections was singled out for praise by OSCE observers for its balance and thoroughness.”
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service has been on the air since 1953 and produces more than three and one half hours of Armenian-language programming daily in Prague and its Yerevan Bureau. Armenian Service programming is available via satellite, local affiliates 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, at

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. There is continuing coverage of this story, complete with photos, over at the 2008 presidential election monitor blog at

  2. Onnik – you should just collect your things and move into some proper country instead of blogging. There’s no hope for Armenia anymore!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I just talked to Aram Mkrtchyan – executive director of Radio “HAY 104.1”. It was a surprise for me to find out, that Radio Hay already has broadcasts of Radio Liberty every day – 9:00 – 9:15, as well as their youth program – Max Liberty – at 5:30 – 6:00.
    This is of course a very tiny bit of Radio Liberty broadcasting, however, Aram Mkrtchyan was also sure, that they won’t have a problem with broadcasting Radio Liberty in the future as well. As to the question, whether they’d take on broadcasting all of RFE/RL newscasts, Aram said the question is irrelevant at this point. I understand, that this is because they have not received a specific offer from RFE/RL yet, so he can’t say anything for sure. Let’s wait and see!

  4. Brave Aram…
    Maybe he mentioned that conversation is “off record” ?

  5. No – I asked him, if it is ok to write about this in my blog – and he said he’s fine with it. He said – they’re a strong radio, and they don’t care. Looking at the recent record of Radio Hay going to court against the Armenian Government – I am more inclined to believe that then the contrary:
    (unfortunately all the stories are in Armenian only)

  6. Yeah, from what limited stuff I know of Aram he’s willing to fight to protect his rights and also willing to use the law as well. The main thing is you need to know your rights and also be working cleanly to begin with, and I think Radio Hye is. However, I would imagine that if they increase broadcasts, a few obstacles and bureaucratic headaches will be put in their way. However, setting a precedent by standing your ground and fighting such petty actions if they happen will be part of the process of change in the country, so good luck to them.

  7. Radio Hay has two strong points , they have very decent coverage outside Yerevan, not the public radio of course, but still better than the rest. Second, since they broadcast mostly armenian music (Rabiz etc) there are a lot of people listening 104.1 all day round, i’ve heard it in taxis, marshutkas etc.

  8. BTW: Observer, I think you’re being too despondent and pessimistic about the way things are going in Armenia, and that’s saying something for me to come out with a statement like that. 😉
    Firstly, the parliamentary election was an improvement over past votes. No, it wasn’t democratic, but there was some progress in relative terms. It’s now up to the international community and civil society to build upon that as well as to identify and resolve other issues that were raised instead.
    Coming back to RFE/RL, though, as you now realize, broadcasts will not be stopped, but they will be restricted and not have nationwide coverage. That’s also assuming that people here and in the international community don’t give up and pressure Public Radio to sign a contract. That’s what still can be done. Might fail, might not, but you never know.
    Further, I don’t believe Armenia is a dictatorship. Actually, it is officially considered a hybrid regime with elements of both authoritarian and democratic rule combined. It’s a managed democracy which the West is happy with as long as the democratic aspects increase slowly over time. Well, who decides that? For sure, not the government, but certainly society can and that’s what will change things here.
    When is another issue, but basically that’s how democracies evolved in the West. Don’t expect Armenia to be any different and to have democracy “imposed” from outside. However, show the outside world that there are those who truly believe in democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and all that, and there will be some kind of support. Besides, RFE/RL isn’t off the air and won’t be, although as I always say, there should be no room for complacency.
    This story hasn’t ended yet, and in any normal democratic society, people would still struggle to prevent Public Radio from stopping RFE/RL broadcasts. Similarly, they’d also keep an eye on things to make sure nothing else happens later. Like, for example, the re-introduction of the original bill. Anyway, it’s up to people here. It always was. Plain and simple.

  9. Have you seen Hailoor yesterday? Public TV and Radio Council spred statement. It is available only in armenian at

  10. The topic is quite trendy in the net at the moment. What do you pay attention to while choosing what to write about?

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