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Ownership of independent newspaper "Azg" transferred to pro-government political party

On 22 April 1996, the Ministry of Justice ratified an amendment
to the statutory policy of the independent daily "Azg" by
transferring ownership of the newspaper to a pro-government
splinter group called Mission of the Ramgavar-Azatakan Party
(MRAP), which was formed after a split in the ranks of the
opposition Ramgavar-Azatakan Party. MRAP was registered by the
Ministry on 15 April. The founders of "Azg", who also own and
publish the newspaper, consequently found themselves completely
cut off from the newspaper. As well, the Ministry ordered the
state-run printing house, Parberakan, to stop printing "Azg"
until told otherwise. On 27 April, a new eight-page newspaper,
using the name and logo of "Azg", was printed by Parberakan, but
without the participation of "Azg"'s editors, who disassociated
themselves from the new version.

During two press conferences held on 23 and 25 April, the
majority of Armenia's media outlets protested the recent events
involving "Azg" and expressed solidarity with the staff of the
newspaper. They also made a public appeal to Armenian President
Levon Ter-Petrossian as well as to the Chief of the
Constitutional Court and to the State Prosecutor.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
  • urging that everything be done so that the founders and staff of
    "Azg" be allowed to resume publication of the newspaper
  • urging that the Ministry of Justice reverse its decision of 22
  • deploring the fact that the Parberakan printing house has ceased
    the publication of "Azg" in the absence of any judicial decision,
    as required by law
  • strongly protesting against the risk of the disappearance of one
    of the most highly-regarded newspapers in Armenia
  • pointing out that, in light of upcoming elections in Armenia,
    the survival of a newspaper that takes a critical stand on
    government policy and conduct is essential for the functioning of
    democracy in the country

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Levon Tar-Petrossian
    President of the Republic of Armenia
    Fax: +374 2 52 15 81

    Please copy appeals to the originator if possible.

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