8 Years Have Passed Since A1+ TV Company Closure

The most trusted name in Armenian broadcast news at the time, “A1+” TV channel was shut down on April 2, 2002 having lost its broadcast license in a competition held by Armenian National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR), a state licensing authority fully controlled by president Robert Kocharian.

8 years on, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media Support NGO, Media Diversity Institute-Armenia, Armenian Helsinki Committee, Foundation against violation of law, Civil Society Institute express their concern about the restrictions to the freedom of speech and media in the Republic of Armenia.

The situation has been deteriorating in this realm since 2 April, 2002, when “A1+”, an independent private television Company, was deprived of the right to broadcast. This had an immediate impact on the level of pluralism in Armenia and almost all of the broadcasting companies started to work more cautiously. Hidden censorship is applied by using an economic and tax leverage as well instruments of political involvement.

Since April, 2002, “A1+” television Company has participated in more than 10 tenders on broadcast licensing, and it has been refused a license on every occasion by the National television and Radio Committee. Armenian media and human rights organizations believe that “A1+” is being targeted for political reasons. The authorities, on the other hand, mention that “A1+” has lost the contests of broadcast licensing. The final clarification was made by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court ruled that the Article 10 of the European Convention had been violated, i.e the right of a television Company to impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers in its decision of 17 June, 2008. Nevertheless, RA National Assembly made an amendment to the “Law on television and Radio” according to which tender for broadcast licensing was suspended for two years.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on March 4, 2010 addressed the issue of enforcement of the ECHR decision on “A1+” television Company, and underlined that it “is waiting for the detailed information about the developments of granting effective remedies to the applicant by the authorized court authorities”.

In 2010 the Council of Europe addressed the issue of “A1+” television Company in its resolution 1897 on “Respect for media freedom” (2010) and called upon the Armenian authorities “to revise their legislation on the allocation of broadcasting licenses, which was passed as a countermeasure to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Meltex Ltd and Mesrop Movsesyan v. Armenia of 17 June 2008”.

In spite of the above mentioned circumstances, “A1+” television Company continues to be deprived of the right to broadcast.

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


5 thoughts on “8 Years Have Passed Since A1+ TV Company Closure

  1. What I find amazing is how A1+ has retained its functionality and is perhaps the only source of video-based news for us living abroad. Thanks to Google, we have the opportunity to watch it on Youtube.

    When you think about it, being put in such a situation has made the company more resilient and innovative (like distributing the video news in 1 minute through mobile phone downloads). In the Soviet times, the same role was reserved to Voice of America or Radio Liberty on the shortwave radios.

    • To segue to the issue of human rights, a few days ago an Armenian acquaintance was wondering whether the thousands of applications since March 1, 2008 requesting political refugee status in Europe and elsewhere had merit. The prevailing sentiment in Europe is to curb the influx of immigrants so one of the few ways to gain legal residency is through political asylum.

      Access to free speech and media is seen as a basic human right in the West. The powers that be are very acutely aware of the situation with the freedom of speech and with its suppression, they see these political asylum requests as having merit. It is not necessary for someone to be physically be abused by the regime – absence of free media is seen as a legitimate basis for a political refugee.

    • nazarian, your points about A1+ are fair enough but I would not compare A1+ having “same role” as Voice of America (VOA) or Radio Free Europe or Radio Liberty (RFE or RL).

      VOA was and still is the official external broadcasting service of US Federal government and is fully funded by US taxpayers. Its function is to, right or wrong, promote positive view/image of USA and to spread US government propaganda. It broadcasts in various countries and languages varying according to the priorities of US government. VOA is exempt from using FCC issued callsigns while other radio stations in USA are required by FCC rules to use callsigns. By legislation of Smith-Mundt Act, VOA was forbidden to broadcast directly to US American citizens in USA to protect US public from their government propaganda. So, politicians were very much aware that VOA was US government propaganda arm. Nowadays, mainstream news media provides similar function to US public, especially in foreign policies.

      Similarly, RFE or RL is broadcasting service of US Federal government and is funded by US taxpayers to promote US government points of views. I would hardly call these independent voices in broadcasting and having freedom of speech. One has to be careful of entities owned by governments promoting and propagandizing their views and policies and even some private entities which promote their governments’ propaganda and lies.

      • Good point about the different ownership – my point was that they both provided real information despite a near total information blackout. I should have made it clear what I meant.

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