European Court rules in favor of embattled television station

New York, June 19, 2008—The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Armenia’s repeated denials of a broadcasting license to the independent A1+ television station violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the verdict, the Armenian government must pay the station 20,000 euros (US$31,000) in damages.

Famous for its criticism of Armenian authorities, A1+ was forced off the air in 2002 when the National Committee on Television and Radio—a regulatory body whose members are directly appointed by the president—awarded the station’s frequency to another company. Since then, the agency has repeatedly rejected A1+ applications for a broadcasting license—moves widely viewed as retaliation for the station’s journalism. When local courts dismissed A1+ appeals as unfounded, station owner Mesrop Movsesyan filed an appeal with the Strasbourg-based court in 2004.

“We urge Armenian authorities to view this ruling as a signal to grant a license to the station,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “By granting a license to A1+, newly elected President Serzh Sarkisian will demonstrate his commitment to press freedom in the country.”

In its verdict, the court found that government regulators refused to provide reasons for the denials despite numerous requests from A1+ management. According to the verdict, the court considered “that a licensing procedure whereby the licensing authority gives no reasons for its decisions does not provide adequate protection against arbitrary interferences by a public authority with the fundamental right to freedom of expression.” The court found that the repeated and unexplained denials violated the right to impart information and ideas as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights.