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Armenia22 July 2003

Two main independent TV stations still without broadcasting licences

Reporters Without Borders today criticised the Armenian authorities for their new refusal of broadcasting licences to Armenia’s two main independent TV stations and said it raised "serious doubts" about the impartiality of the country’s media regulatory body.

The applications of the two stations, A1+ and Noyan Tapan, which had aired criticism of President Robert Kocharian’s government, were turned down by the National Broadcasting Commission on 18 July for the third time since their frequencies were assigned to other stations on 2 April last year.

"The absence of these two stations is increasingly serious for diversity of news in Armenia," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Since the nine members of the Commission are appointed by President Kocharian, we have serious doubts about their independence."

He called on Commission president Grigor Amalian to say on what legal basis the licences had been refused, to assign broadcasting licences more openly and strive to make the Commission truly independent.

The Commission’s 18 July decision came after bidding for three frequencies in the Yerevan area. It said the plans presented by A1+ and Noyan Tapan were not good enough. The stations also failed in bidding on 11 June that would have enabled them to get seven-year licences.

The April 2002 cancellation of their licences, a year before general elections, drew widespread local and international protests, including demonstrations demanding Kocharian’s resignation and an official note of concern from the US government about the future of the country’s independent media.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had asked for speedy assignment of frequencies so that all stations were on the air before the March 2003 elections. The National Press Club in Erevan named Kocharian an "enemy of press freedom" on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) last year.

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