YEREVAN — The Armenian authorities have suspended the radio broadcast of Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency in Armenia after it aired a program that featured disparaging comments about Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government’s policies.
The Sputnik Armenia news service’s weekly program broadcast on November 17 was authored and presented by Tigran Keosayan, a Russian film director and TV commentator of Armenian descent.
Keosayan and his wife Margarita Simonyan, who runs the Russian television network RT and several other Kremlin-funded media outlets, are vocal critics of the current Armenian government. Simonyan was banned from entering the country last year.
Armenia’s National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH) on Wednesday accused Keosayan of making “mocking and derogatory” statements about Armenia and its people in breach of Armenian law. It said foreign nationals also have no “moral right” to do that.
The commission announced that it has therefore banned an Armenian radio station from retransmitting any Sputnik Armenia programs for the next 30 days.
The HRAH also fined Sputnik Armenia 500,000 drams ($1,240) for the latest talk show by former opposition parliamentarian Arman Abovian during which he effectively accused Pashinyan’s government of planning to cede much of Armenia’s territory to Azerbaijan. The commission accused the broadcaster of spreading false and unverified information.
The Russian Embassy in Yerevan criticized the decision the following day, saying that it limited Armenians’ right to “receive information from a source of their choice.”
“This step cannot but look like a concession to those who are increasingly in favor of breaking the traditional, mutually beneficial and mutually respectful allied relations between Russia and Armenia,” the embassy added in a statement.
Sputnik is a state-run Russian media organization operating in several countries through radio channels or websites, and has been accused of spreading Kremlin disinformation.