YPC Weekly Newsletter

March 8-14

Yerevan Press Club disseminated the summary of Armenian media monitoring results for March 4-5, 2003.

Monitoring of Armenian media coverage of campaigning for RA presidential elections in 2003 was made by Yerevan Press Club under the project supported by the Open Society Institute. Assistance in the YPC monitoring was provided by "Asparez" Journalists' Club of Gyumri, the Vanadzor branch of Helsinki Citizens Assembly and Internews public organization.

Herein the findings of the quantitative monitoring of March 4-5, 2003 are summarized (for TV and radio channels - till 20.00 on the ballot day) - the period when the pre-election promotion is prohibited by the law. During these two days the monitoring group studied all the newscasts and analytical programs of 5 TV and 1 radio channels, as well as 7 newspapers in full. The monitoring was aimed at calculation of the volume (air time/newspaper space), allocated to the presidency candidates to express attitudes, opinions and judgments, as well as for narrations about them made by other individuals. Along with this, the mentionings of candidates were counted, with a specification of the contexts - positive, negative and neutral.

1. The activities of the majority of media on March 4-5 were affected by the intensification of the political discord in the period between the two rounds of voting. During these days the media mostly remained divided into two major wings - those of pro-Kocharyan and pro-Demirchyan standing. At the same time, the media secured themselves against the possible charges of law violations and used the implicit forms of promoting their chosen candidate while diminishing his opponent.

2. This was manifest, in particular, with regard to the newspaper coverage of the pre-election rallies held on March 3 by the two rivaling parties. On the one hand, positive or negative mentionings of candidates were practically inexistent, but on the other - the stories were presented in a manner that benefited one of the candidates with relevant accentuation made.

3. The incumbent President Robert Kocharyan received the most attention in "Azg" daily and the programs of Public Television of Armenia. In the other media (including the Public Radio) the attention was rather equally distributed. In "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun" daily the opposition candidate Stepan Demirchyan was never mentioned during the two days, yet, Robert Kocharian was mentioned only in two publications himself, one of them being an official communication (the meeting with Belarus Ambassador).

4. The majority of connotationally colored mentionings (either in definitely positive or negative context) was also recorded in the programs of the Public Television of Armenia. The incumbent was mentioned here positively six times. The other media had a significant prevalence of neutral pieces. One positive mentioning of Robert Kocharyan was recorded by the monitoring group on "Prometheus" TV company and "Azg" newspaper, each. No definitely negative mentionings were registered. Thus, March 4 and 5 gave the voters certain time "to recover" - after the flows of anti-advertising pouring on them on the last days of the second round campaign.


In the early morning of March 14 the office of Vanadzor branch of Helsinki Citizens Assembly, where the editorial board of "Civil Initiative" weekly is also located, was set on fire. As the head of the HCA Vanadzor branch and the Editor of the newspaper Arthur Sakunts informed Yerevan Press Club, the offenders broke the window and set fire in the office. The organization has incurred significant damage.

It is essential to note that on March 15 the HCA Vanadzor branch planned to hold "Protect Your Rights" action and to report during the action about the irregularities recorded by the observers of this organization in the presidential elections of 2003. Despite the arson, the action will be held in front of the office burnt, Arthur Sakunts said.


On March 10 the General Prosecutor's Office publicized the details of the murder of Tigran Naghdalian, the Chairman of the Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia, committed on December 28, 2002. As it has been reported, previously the law and order bodies had arrested six participants of the crime (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 1-7, 2003).

According to the communication of the Public Relations and Information Department of the RA General Prosecutor's Office, in November 2002 Leva Harutiunian hires his relative Gegham Shakhbazian to kill Tigran Naghdalian, promising to pay him ,000. In early December Shakhbazian addressed his colleague Hovhannes Harutiunian (bearing the nickname of "Aper") to inform him about the arrangement with Leva Harutiunian, as well as gain additional guarantees. Promising to verify the validity of the order, Hovhannes Harutiunian in a few days informed Shakhbazian that the issue had been duly discussed and the order stands. He also said that from now on Shakhbazian should contact him on every organizational matter of the "case", and he will be paid ,000 for the order. During the subsequent days Hovhannes Harutiunian gave -6,000 in parts to Shakhbazian for the preparations, promising to pay the remainder after the murder.

Further, the communication of the General Prosecutor's Office says that to commit the crime Shakhbazian gathered a group, comprised of John Harutiunian and the latter's friend Felix Arustamian. A few days later Shakhbazian received from Hovhannes Harutiunian and gave the immediate executors of the crime the illegally purchased guns "Makarov" and "TT" with cartridges. Further Shakhbazian by his personal car with other group members followed Tigran Naghdalian for a few days, determining his route. After which it was decided to kill the journalist as he would be leaving his parents' house. The murder was committed by John Harutiunian, who left the crime site by the car of Shakhbazian who was waiting for him together with Felix Arustamian. On December 29 Hovhannes Harutiunian gave Shakhbazian ,000 divided among the group members.

According to the General Prosecutor's Office, the members of the gang are charged with committing a premeditated crime with aggravating circumstances and with the illegal purchase, bearing and storage of arms and ammunition. On the case Samvel Abrahamian and Samvel Harutiunian are also arrested on the charge of concealing the crime and illegal storage of arms and ammunition.

As to Hovhannes Harutiunian, he has been announced wanted by the General Prosecutor's Office since March 6. On March 13 on the case of Tigran Naghdalian's assassination Grigor Petrosian (bearing the nickname of "Mzdoi Grigor") was announced wanted, too.

The officially disclosed details of this crime are actively commented on by the media of the country. A number of pro-governmental media added a note to the official communication of the law and order bodies, informing that Hovhannes Harutiunian, currently wanted by the police, is a second cousin to Aram Sargsian (a member of the Political Council of opposition "Respublika" party, the brother of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, assassinated during the terrorist attack in the Parliament on October 27, 1999), and the other ordered of the crime, Leva Harutiunian, is the father of Armen Sargsian's (the brother of Aram Sargsian) godson. On their behalf, the opposition media publish the opinion of Aram Sargsian, who, while confirming these familial relations, announces he was one of the most interested people to see Tigran Naghdalian alive (as a witness on the case of October 27). To the same extent, as Aram Sargsian notes, he wishes nothing would happen to the other witnesses on the case, as well as the executors of the terrorist attack.


On March 14 at the session of the RA Commercial Court the suit of "Dar 21", "ARMENAKOB", "TV 5", "Yerevan" and "EV" TV companies versus the National Commission on Television and Radio was refused. On January 30 (exactly before the broadcast licensing competition) five TV companies challenged in court the refusal of the National Commission to return them their application packages for revision (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 25-31, 2003).

As it has already been reported, the competition for five UHFs in Yerevan was announced by the National Commission as far back as on October 15 last year, and its conductance was twice postponed: first, due to the litigation of "Noyan Tapan" versus the National Commission (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 18-24, 2003), then - because of the trial above. It is also known that among the bidders in the competition is "A1+" TV company, which was refused a broadcast license on April 2, 2002. Not only the Armenian public, but also international organizations, including the Council of Europe of which Armenia is a member insisted on holding a licensing competition as soon as possible - in particular, so that "A1+" could have a chance to return on air before presidential elections of 2003. Formally, no faults can be found with the reasons for freezing the competition. Yet even the greatest optimist would find it difficult to convince oneself and everyone else that the constantly postponed possibility for the opposition "A1+" TV channel to return on air is explained only by unfortunate circumstances. The situation is too fortunate for all those who do not want an alternative point of view: the presidential elections are over, but those for the parliament are imminent. What else will impede the National Commission from holding a competition?..


On March 7 at the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan the hearings of the suit of Central Bank of Armenia versus "Aravot" daily were held. On February 11, 2003 "Aravot" published the article by Armen Khachatrian "For the Information of Incorruptible Officials", telling about the misconduct of the CB officials. On February 17 CB addressed the newspaper demanding to refute the information as invalid and unverified. In reply, on February 20 a piece titled "CB Gives no Arguments Still" appeared in "Aravot", where the edition insisted on the data previously published.

On the court session the attorney of RA Central Bank filed a demand to oblige the daily to publish a refutation of both pieces.

The next session on the case is scheduled for March 19.

Meanwhile, on March 14 "Aravot" informed that on March 12 the edition received the notification of the RA Commercial Court of another suit filed versus the daily - this time by "Ardshinbank". The bank demands to oblige "Aravot" to pay ,000 as compensation for the damage caused by a number of articles published by the newspaper about 10 months ago. The subject of publications was the misconduct of the temporary management of "Ardshinbank", appointed by the RA Central Bank.

The first session on the case will be held on March 27.

As the Chief Editor of "Aravot" Aram Abrahamian told Yerevan Press Club, they qualify these two suits as an attempt of Central Bank to harass the daily.


Meanwhile, on March 14 "Aravot" informed that on March 12 the edition received the notification of the RA Commercial Court of another suit filed versus the daily - this time by "Ardshinbank". The bank demands to oblige "Aravot" to pay ,000 as compensation for the damage caused by a number of articles published by the newspaper about 10 months ago. The subject of publications was the misconduct of the temporary management of "Ardshinbank", appointed by the RA Central Bank.
The first session on the case will be held on March 27.
As the Chief Editor of "Aravot" Aram Abrahamian told Yerevan Press Club, they qualify these two suits as an attempt of Central Bank to harass the daily


On March 7-9 in Tsaghkadzor a seminar "Media Coverage of RA Presidential Elections", organized by Yerevan Press Club and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, was held. The seminar participants - the representatives of the leading media and NGOs of Armenia - discussed such topical issues as the legislative regulation of the activities of electronic and print media during the pre-election campaigns and its compliance with international standards, the coverage of the past presidential elections by the regional media, the role of journalistic associations in ensuring the quality and impartial coverage of elections. At the meeting a comparative analysis of the media coverage of the electoral campaigns of 1995-2003, as well as the findings of the qualitative monitoring of Armenian media coverage of presidential elections in 2003 were presented at the meeting, too.


On March 12 at the Journalists Union of Armenia the brochure "Media in South Caucasus in Post-Soviet Times" was presented. The brochure was published by the International Association of Journalists "South Caucasus" and Yerevan Press Club with the support of OSCE Office in Yerevan and the financial assistance of German Government. The publication of the brochure was assisted to by "Yeni Nesil" Journalists Union of Azerbaijan and Georgian "Black Sea Press" Association.

The brochure is composed of reports by experts and journalists of South Caucasus countries, presented at the two working meetings held last year in Yerevan by the International Association in partnership with YPC (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 14-20, 2002 and September 28 - October 4, 2002).

The four sections of the brochure - "Azerbaijan", "Armenia", "Georgia" and "Media of Unrecognized Republics" (Abkhazia, Mountainous Karabagh, South Ossetia) - tell about the processes, the trends, the main events in the media-space of the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They, in particular, present the main components of the "fourth estate": the legislative regulation of the information sphere, the role of media during elections, the market of traditional and new media, self-regulation in the journalistic profession, professional education.

As the preface to the publication notes, "even a cursory glance is sufficient to understand the extent to which we, the journalists, living and working in a region torn apart by conflicts, are united by the same professional problems", and, possibly, these common pain spots will help to advance on the thorny way to peace and accord in the region.

The materials presented in the brochure will become the basis for the future homonymous book to be published in late 2003 - early 2004.

The Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan Roy Reeve and the First Secretary of the German Embassy in Armenia Peter Speirer expressed their support to this project - one of the first of the International Association of Journalists "South Caucasus".

When reprinting or using the information above, reference to the Yerevan Press Club is required.

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN