YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia’s national broadcasting commission pulled the plug on a popular television station critical of the government, sparking the indignaton of media freedom groups and hundreds of supporters.
The private A1+ station lost its frequency as a result of a new media law that required all stations to rebid for their frequencies. The commission awarded the frequency to the Sharm advertising company, saying it presented a stronger plan.
But A1+ and its supporters claimed the station lost the bidding because of critical reporting on its news programs. The station immediately appealed the decision in court.
About 300 people gathered in front of the parliament building in Yerevan, the capital, to protest the decision and demand parliament change the media law.
President Robert Kocharian defended the decision and said the station could bid for other frequencies.
At the same time, he criticized the station for favoring the opposition in its coverage.
“It is undesirable when a media outlet becomes a weapon in a political fight,” Kocharian told journalists at the airport before departing for Tajikistan.
The commission’s decision was condemned by the Yerevan Press Club and Internews, an organization that supports independent media in the former Soviet Union and other nascent democracies.
“The commission’s decision could become a precedent for silencing undesirable media,” the groups said in a joint statement.