Friction without compromise

In the broadcasting sphere of Armenia, perhaps not randomly, the fate of two TV stations, “A1+” TV and “Gala” TV, concur and are similar to some extent. One of them has been deprived of a broadcasting license since 2002, and the other has been fighting for the right to continue broadcasting since 2007. The proof of the allegation that the various types of pressure (economic and legal) on these two TV stations have political motives is not required. The events preceding the deprivation of the broadcasting license in one case and the fiscal and legal problems in the other have been frequently talked about.

“A1+” TV became unnecessary for the authorities after it began reporting successively on the tragic events taking place on the 27 October, 1999, involving an attack on the National Assembly (Armenian parliament) of the Republic of Armenia. “Gala” TV has been involved in such problems since 2008, when it broadcasted the speeches of the opposition leader and his team members, as well as announced that it intended to provide equal opportunities for covering all political parties.
Internal political developments have been noticed so far. In particular, the opposition is again allowed to hold its meetings in Liberty Square of Yerevan (it had been forbidden to organize demonstrations in Liberty Square since March 1, 2008). The political prisoners, who had been in prison since the elections in 2008, were set free. Even some opportunities to come to an agreement are being envisaged between the opposition and the state authorities. And, eventually, the Public Television station of Armenia (H1) as well as the other TV channels now seem more likely to report more or less seriously on the activities of the opposition.

Proceeding from these changes, it could be expected that the other bans on the Armenian television would be annulled and that the “A1+” and “Gala” TV stations would be allowed to function normally. Nevertheless, the reality differed significantly from our expectations.

As is known, the European Court of Human Rights, by its decision of 2008, had considered the deprivation of license for “A1+” to be illegal. However, on 8 June 2011, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a unanimous decision, according to which, Armenia had fully implemented the decision of the European Court concerning the “A1+” case, so the procedure is considered to be over. Such a conclusion is quite suspicious, as the lawsuits concerning the “A1+” have not come to their end neither in domestic nor in the international courts. On this occasion, a number of journalistic and public organizations expressed their concern, forecasting that such a decision will give confidence to the state authorities to make other types of media keep silent. Alas, this forecast turned out to be true.

On July 17, the “Gala” TV station announced that the Cassation Court of Armenia had rejected the appeal of the TV station’s founder, “CHAP” Ltd., which reaffirms the April 26 decision of the Court of Appeals. According to this decision, “Gala” TV is obligated to dismantle its broadcasting equipments from the TV tower within a month. In such a case of dismantling of equipment the TV station will be deprived of broadcasting before the national elections for an indefinite time.

The Gyumri municipality and in particular the mayor of Gyumri, Vardan Ghukasyan, may have such expectations, who never loses the opportunity to express his hostility towards the TV station. It is known that a few years ago he declared that he was disgusted by “Gala,” as well as he promised to people living at the address of 124 Ghorghanyan Street in Gyumri, who had stayed without a roof for 20 days in the beginning of June. He particularly declared, “Take this money, I give it to you, I, and I promise that when we win in the case against “Gala” TV, when we win them in the court I will give you the half of the money, 2 million AMD. Take it and build your home.” The negative attitude towards the “Gala” is obvious here. There is also such an impression that there are also personal reasons to pressure the “Gala” TV station.

By the way, the Cassation Court of Armenia on October 31, 2008, annulled the decision made in favor of Gyumri municipality on February 29. But for this time, the same Cassation Court changed its approach.

“Gala” declared that it is going to continue to demand protection of its rights before the European Court of Human Rights. However, the expectations are not optimistic, taking into account the case of “A1+” TV.