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Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A1+: 6 years off air...

In one of my first posts after I set up this blog - almost a year ago, on 5 April 2007 - I wrote about A1+ (27 April 2007):

"(for years) They tried to ban A1+ TV, they sort of succeeded, but they was not able to ban A1+, for me - the symbol of free speech in Armenia. A1+ continued its live online. And today they announced the launch of A1+ blog - another step from A1+ journalists to promote free speech in Armenia. [I would also add A1+ YouTube channel - established on 17 January 2008, it became one of the most viewed channels in the whole YouTube!] If one day I switch on TV and see A1+ station live, I will understand that I probably live in different Armenia, in better Armenia, in Armenia which can be transformed to a country where I would prefer live in..."

Today, it's 6 years since A1+ is off air... but still on...

35 comments:

reflective said...

I am not so sure that A1+ is part of the solution. Arguing that the authorities censor news and that only the party line is heard are statements that should be easy to rally behind.

A1+ seems to me to be part of the problem: sponsored-media that edits and censors where only a(nother) party line is heard.

How does this help? Not to mention the quality and level of their journalism seems to be getting worse with time, not better.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, I guess these are valid points. A1 Plus does for the opposition what H1 does for the government.

On the other hand, as the truth generally lies somewhere in the middle, I believe that until there is a proper media environment on both sides, plurality is the only option we have.

However, that does not mean that media outlets may purposely libel opponents or spread disinformation. Indeed, there are laws which must be used, but I wonder in a situation where two stations -- say, A1 Plus, and H1 -- were competing with each other (for adertising, viewers etc) maybe the quality of both would improve simply because it has to.

Although I am critical of the general media situation here, especially for this election, I'm told that two publications stood out for their coverage.

Aravot which apparently had better coverage than most despite being pro-opposition in the print media, and Yerkir Media TV (despite being ARF-D) in the broadcast media.

Dunno. I have to say that A1 Plus was part of Ter-Petrossian's campaign for this election, but then again, so too was H1. What's the solution? One would hope competition and the public demanding better coverage, but to be honest, I really don't know.

artmika said...

Onnik, it was with great interest I read your posts/interview back in 2002 & 2006 re A1+ case. Thanks for the links you provided in your reflection to my current post.

Here is how Onnik reported on A1+ case when it once again denied a broadcasting frequency in a tender in 2006. He has also some photos from A1+ protest rally there.

“In the continuing saga that perhaps best represents the way the authorities have destroyed freedom of speech in the broadcast media, A1 Plus has once again been denied a broadcasting frequency. The TV station, considered to be the most independent and popular for its news, was taken off the air in a controversial tender for new frequencies in April 2002. […]

Of course, even if the European Court ruled in favor of A1 Plus, nobody expects that the station would return to the air in time for the 2007 parliamentary elections, or even presidential elections scheduled for 2008. Instead, Public TV as well as Gerard Cafesjian and Bagrat Sarkisyan’s Armenia TV will continue to fulfil the role expected of them in covering up any electoral falsification, and the same will be true for every other TV or radio station allowed to broadcast.

The decision to deprive A1 Plus of the right to broadcast was and still is political as its Director said in an interview I conducted with him the day after the station was taken off the air in April 2002.

The decision to close A1 Plus was taken in November during a private meeting between the Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, the Defense Minister, Serzh Sarkisyan, and the National Security Council. Although we have no evidence, only oral testimony, we believe that the idea to close the station came from that meeting.
[…]
Officially, they argued that our package was bad, and insufficient funding may have been another reason, but it is only a cover for the real reason which is political.


The full interview is available online here.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Dunno. I have to say that A1 Plus was part of Ter-Petrossian's campaign for this election, but then again, so too was H1.

Obviously I meant "so too was H1" in terms of being part of Serge's campaign.

Anyway, re. A1 Plus, just to clarify that the photos you linked to are not from 2006, but 2002.

In recent years, the demos have been largely small civil society affairs of about 100 people.

Interestingly, when I tried to push the A1 Plus story in 2002 nobody was interested.

IWPR even said that because the Georgian opposition protesting for Rustavi-2 outnumbered the protesters for A1 Plus it wasn't important an issue.

The Caucasus Media Institute were even worse and justified the tenders. Of course, it's interesting to note that Rustavi-2 went from radical opposition to government after the Rose Revolution.

I daresay A1 Plus would do the same although I don't quite know the story pre-1998 when I arrived in Armenia.

What was the deal with the name change from A1 to A1 Plus and while I know they apparently covered the Dashnak ban properly in the 1990s, what was its reporting like in general?

artmika said...

Back then, it was my favourite TV station. They always presented both government and opposition views, pretty balanced coverage, I would call them independent. They also had analytical/political programmes, with guests from various social and political backgrounds. Re name change, as far as I remember it was meant to show that news + other programmes, but I am not 100% sure.

I am confident that if A1+ come back to air, it would once again become one of the most popular TV channels (if not the most, like it was before) and would contribute to the changes for better of Armenian electronic media, and especially Public TV. I remember back then, due to A1+ reporting, our state TV also changed for better and was forced to reflect things which was reported by A1+. On the other hand, A1+ itself will change for better, and become more balanced and independent, kind of Aravot version of TV channel.

yervand said...

Dunno. I have to say that A1 Plus was part of Ter-Petrossian's campaign for this election, but then again, so too was H1.


you are absolutely right h1 was part of LTPs campaign!!!! that helped alot to consolidate people around LTP! and hate even more the serz and co!

THANKS TO H1!!!!

yervand said...

for your info onik a1 was opposition (if you wish) always , including levon presidency! and was attempted to shut down at that time (if iam not wrong it was for short time).......

and for sure it will be as critical to levon when he will be the president again!

and a1+ is not your H1 and it si the voice of truth!

nazarian said...

Off topic here:

When the opposition comes to power my plan is to influence them to get rid of the public TV. There should not be government owned and funded TV stations in Armenia.

The government should be prohibited from producing news reports. If any government agencies want to televise educational programs, they can sponsor these programs.

nazarian said...

Speaking of A1+ getting closed 6 years ago. When there were sporadic protests at the time, I talked to a friend of mine who was taking part in these protests. My advise was that the closure was one of the first steps towards an authoritarian state (I'm not a prophet). My suggestion was to be much more forceful in these protests than just holding a sign in front of a building.

Alas, people were more romantic at the time and did not know where Kocharian was heading.

artmika said...

So true, Nazarian...

reflective said...

I find it so strange that people find these actions as "steps to an authoritarian state." What was it before? Where was this democratic situation that is being conjured up/remembered?

When ARF offices were plundered, computers thrown out the windows? When SHAM-iram political party was created overnight (comprised of the mistresses of the HHSh) to have a second party in parliament? When oligarchic structures were rolled out to control imports, prevent investment in the country, create myths about Diasporan armies ready to take over, sell off Armentel as a monopoly to set back Armenia's competitiveness generations?

Excuse me, but when were the good old days?

Again (if it is not clear for the 100th time) I am not defending the actions of the authorities...this needs to be stated explicitly every time, because many hear cannot comprehend that it is possible to be against the phenomena without being for the persona.

yervand said...

to all :

please go to azatutyun.am and read the piece about the videon the reflection of prosecutor office

http://azatutyun.eu/armeniareport/report/ar/2008/04/B578DF6A-EE68-42E6-B60F-439171D975EF.ASP

Onnik Krikorian said...

and a1+ is not your H1 and it si the voice of truth!

Well, unfortunately, it was not the voice of truth although it did provide exposure to the other side of the story.

Since 2002 it has also suffered in so much that its best journalists and staff from before have since left and now work elsewhere.

Still, I don't doubt that if it were to return many of its old staff might too.

Onnik Krikorian said...

My advise was that the closure was one of the first steps towards an authoritarian state

Actually, I think that started in 1994-5 and was really the direction Armenia was heading in 1996.

For sure, when I arrived in 1998 I couldn't say that the tendency wasn't there and that things started to go downhill from either a) 27 October 1999 or b) 2 April 2002.

I also think that it's important to note that these tendencies are not specific to Armenia and actually reflect a general regional as well as world wide decline.

I would certainly argue that the government is not as strong as it was in say, 1999 for the parliamentary election or 2003 for the presidential.

The fact that there is an opposition at all -- and one that was noticeably stronger than that in 2003 albeit mainly because of leadership -- is evidence of that.

Hambik said...

Wasn't it A1+ that released the tampered video footage online and spread like wild-fire on all the blogs of the apparent shooting of citizens? If you watch the full length video, I believe it was on this site several days ago, you clearly see that two separate scenes were cut and pasted to make it look different. I don't consider that very truthful reporting by any means. It is one thing to stick with facts and put forth the truth, but A1+ over the past few months has been part of the agitation in getting people excited.

retardedanonymous said...

Well, independent enquiry is exactly what the opposition is
demanding.
It's clear that the gov-t will never accept this demand.
Whatever the findings are they will not be identical to the official version, and this will mean admitting that the authorities lied to the public.
What might happen is the inclusion of a couple of western specialists into the investigation, who will be taken to Proshyan vodka.
In the end, somewhere between the 7th kebab and the 14th vodka shot,they will sign a paper saying they agree with the findings of the Armenian police.
This paper later will be used
by Osganian to decline any further demands for investigation.
P.S.
I am glad that Onnik is able to accept that this is a valid demand, even though it is supported by Levon.
Of course, Onnik never apologized to me for calling me retarded and a coward, but that's OK, after all, I support freedom of speech, even if that involves someone insulting me and then never apologizing.

retardedanonymous said...

"When the opposition comes to power..."

Nazarian,
I wish I had your optimism.

Onnik Krikorian said...

I don't think closing down Public TV is going to help anyone. It might actually make the situation worse. I can't think of the UK without the BBC, for example.

What does need to happen, however, is that it serves the public interest rather than the government. Ironically, I suspect that attempts to close down Public TV might actually incur the wrath of the Council of Europe.

The concerns as they stand now, however, are that H1 is still not independent enough.

artmika said...

Yervand, Hambik and ‘retardedanonymous’, I would request to move debate about particular video footages or other not related but important topics towards more relevant posts.

Hambik, as to that video footage of shooting at protesters, relevant comments and my opinion are expressed here

I will only add, since you mentioned, that its distribution had nothing to do with the A1+. In fact, at that time A1+, like other independent and pro-opposition media in Armenia, was censored and blocked under the decree of ‘state of emergency’.

yervand said...

why bother myself you anyway post only my every other comment.....

but ingeneral agreed :-))

Onnik Krikorian said...

Retarded Anonymous, you attempted to start a campaign against me with infantile statements and you did so from the cover anonymity.

Artmika, I am requesting again that you prevent people from making things personal which Retarded Anonymous clearly is. In fact, he is attempting to take digs and continue his battle against me.

Incidentally, I can guess who he is which makes the situation worse because I was also hounded by him through intimidating and insulting emails until I stuck him on my spam filter.

He is now therefore trying to do the same on your blog and if you allow this it will disrupt any chance of meaningful discussion.

Hambik said...

Thank you for bringing that to my attention Artmika, I guess I was had received that information from an incorrect source, and also I apologize for posting an unrelated comment, I am still fairly new to your blog.

I would also like to say about A1+, that while I do not agree with the style of reporting, having grown up in the U.S., I find it unacceptable that a news source would be taken off air for its views. I agree with Onnik in that while the quality of A1+ is not really high at the moment, it is very possible that competition with H1 will drive both to improve.

artmika said...

Onnik and ‘retardedanonymous’, I already made my opinion clear on that particular matter and you both had chance to express your opinions. If you have any further matters to discuss with each other, please do it via your personal blogs. No further comments on this specific issue will be accepted.

proudly anonymous said...

Excellent OP (original post), artmika. It brought back so many memories...A1+ the TV station was a phenomenon; it still stands as the only legitimate attempt at independent television in Armenia. I do remember that if you wanted to know what was going on, you'd turn on A1+; and like someone mentioned, the now much maligned Lraber/turned Haylur had to change to keep up.Its quality of journalists was unmatched. And they actually presented debate, BOTH sides of a debate (what a concept!), something that is absolutely missing today(and I'm not excluding the opposition media here). I know I'm not the only one who would greatly appreciate seeing some of today's "warring" factions in those forums.

Actually, that it has become so radical, that its website/blog is so one-sided is one of the most shocking and tragic developments to come out of the Kocharian/Sargsyan repressive machine. It is also sad how few people seem to be aware of its legacy and are only judging it by the website (which I seriously doubt has retained much of the "old guard") and by the largely unedited videos on its youtube channel.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Yes, I really appreciated A1 Plus when it was on the air. It was an Armenia I recognized rather than the countless official meeting broadcast elsewhere or these days, the glitzy charade of Armenia TV.

As for the old guard, yes, most have since left from what I understand. Viktoria Abrahamian is still there, but others moved on after salaries were not paid and so on. Well, I'd hope it could regain some of its former glory and more objective reporting if it made it back onto the air.

nazarian said...

retardedanonymous, I am optimistic about change because it cannot go on forever like this. There are two ways out of this - Serj continues to rule and Armenia disappears as an independent entity, or life is allowed to continue and justice is restored.

Historically, dictatorships do not last very long. They are either overturned or the country disappears. I don't want Armenia to disappear so the only choice I am willing to think about is overturning the dictatorship.

reflective said...

Nazarian, you and others dissatisfied have 4 years to find a groups to rally around. LTP was a non-starter for any kind of democracy movement. Parliamentary elections are not that far away, and this kind of effort requires just that: effort.

I for one would welcome evolution of the opposition and a push for a more democratic Armenia. Anyway, I think Serj is a step forward from Kocharian.

yervand said...

to retarded reflective:

what do you mean serz is a step forward from khocharyan!????

more bloody you mean??!!!!!

artmika said...

In referring to others, I would ask not using "retarded" and similar wording, unless it's a part of someone's nickname.

reflective said...

Yervand, I know that the opposition yellow-journalistic media rags have transformed the authorities into a single machine, but I think it is not so accurate.

It does however, make it easy to scapegoat, blame others for our problems, and successfully insulate us from reality, which then allows us to forgo analysis and instead just hate hate hate.

Ani said...

As to Nazarian's comment (go where, Armenia?), this article on PanArmenian.net today gives pause as to just what Sargsyan promised when he was in Moscow:

"RF Duma Vice Speaker: Russia, Armenia should form union state"

"Russia and Armenia should form a union state, said Vice Speaker of the Russian State Duma. If formation of a union with Belarus has slowed down, Russia should take up another direction. We should unite with Armenia, for example, or with any other friendly state,” said Lyubov Sliska, Duma Vice Speaker and member of United Russia faction, Regions.ru reports."

artmika said...

Ani, although it's off-topic but very important - the only fact that the idea of a "union state" with Russia has been voiced on such a high level is very worrying, indeed. I felt disgusted when read about it this morning. First - economy, then - everything else... I really worry that if current direction continues Armenia's existence as independent state will be at stake (if not already)...

Anonymous said...

artmika, with Russia controlling all of the strategic sectors of our economy (railways, construction, telecommunications, the Iran-Armenia pipeline, a great number of our natural resources factories and the list sadly goes on), we are effectively nothing more than a Russian province, and a backwards one at that. We are NOT an independent country; all our policy decisions are based on what Russia says we should do. I shudder to think what would happen if Armenia dared to contradict Russia...

For everyone making baseless accusations about LTP selling off national assets to foreigners when he was president or planning to do so if he comes back, this is what selling off looks like.

sorry to get off topic...

artmika said...

Because of its importance, I made a separate post so that all subsequent comments on that subject matter can be directed there:

“Union with Russia”? What’s the F* is going on?

artmika said...

via Aravot daily:

The «Meltex» LLC - «A1+» suit is in the European Court of the Human Rights since 2002. Lately, when the European Court's decree was about to be declared the government of Armenia turned to the European Court and asked to stop the process for 6 months taking into consideration the fact of the fire in the archive of the Ministry of Justice. «Meltex» LLC attorney Tigran Ter-Yesayan informed «A1+» about this.