On November 30 in Yerevan the fifth, final seminar for journalists, covering the campaign for the referendum on amendments to the RA Constitution (November 27, 2005) and the general process of constitutional reform, was held. As it has been reported, the training seminar cycle was organized by Yerevan Press Club during the campaign under a project, supported by UN Development Program (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 11-17 , 2005).
At the seminar the findings of the monitoring of Armenian media coverage of the referendum on amendments to the RA Constitution, implemented by the Yerevan Press Club under “Monitoring of Democratic Reforms in Armenia” project. The project is supported by the Open Society Institute Human Rights and Governance Grants Program. The event participants were also presented the results of a similar study of media in Shirak and Lori regions, administered by “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri and Vanadzor Branch of Helsinki Citizens Assembly.
MONITORING of Armenian media coverage of referendum on amendments to the RA Constitution on November 27, 2005, was made by Yerevan Press Club on November 5-25, 2005. Its purpose was to determine, by accumulating and analyzing quantitative data, the attention of Armenian media to the referendum on November 27 and how adequate they were in informing the society about it, about the process and content of constitutional reform.
The monitoring covered:
4 national TV companies – Public Television of Armenia (PTA), “ALM”, “Armenia”, Second Armenian TV Channel (Second Channel), broadcasting on the whole or most of Armenian territory;
7 national newspapers – official “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” (daily) and “Respublika Armenia” (twice a week), “Aravot”, “Azg”, “Haikakan Zhamanak”, “Hayots Ashkhar” (daily) and Russian-language “Golos Armenii” (three times a week).
The monitoring objects were: the main newscasts, news and analysis programs and commenting programs of the TV companies above; all publications of the newspapers mentioned, containing any reference to the November 27 referendum, draft amendments to the Constitution, etc.
Conclusions of the study:
1. News coverage on TV channels. Out of the total news coverage of broadcast media monitored the greatest amount of air time was allocated to the referendum of November 27, 2005, the draft amendments to the RA Constitution and other related issues by the Second Armenian TV Channel (31.1% of the total amount of the news air time studied on the channel). It is followed by “Armenia” and “ALM” TV companies (26.2% each), Public Television of Armenia (24.3%).
However, in terms of the quantity of news TV pieces on the monitoring subject, the top position is taken by “Armenia” (33% of the total number of news pieces studied on the channel), followed by the Second Channel (26.8%), PTA (20.2%) and “ALM” (17.3%).
2. Connotation coloring of the news coverage on TV channels. The most vividly expressed connotation was present in the studied news/news and analysis programs of the Second Channel and “Armenia”. Here the connotation (mostly positive) references prevailed over the neutral ones. At the same time, “Zham” (“Armenia” TV) was the only news program, the coverage of which never had negative references. The news pieces of PTA and “ALM” were mostly neutral or positive in context. At all TV channels the connotation references appeared mostly in the reports of promotional campaigns waged by supporters and opponents of the amendments to the Constitution, quoting their opinion on various provisions of the draft on ballot. The small share of the negative coverage is due primarily to the fact that in many cases the reporting of the activities of the renewed Constitution opponents did not communicate on the content of their actions, thus resulting in neutral context.
3. Commenting programs. The monitored commenting programs of “Armenia” and Second Channel devoted 80% of the issues to the constitutional reform in full, while PTA devoted to the subject all the issues. The guests of these programs were usually the supporters or opponents of the draft amendments introduced to the referendum, thus, conditioning their connotation. However, in terms of connotation references a strong positive slant can be observed in the programs of “Armenia” (“Indeed”) and Second Channel (“Fourth Studio” and “The Right to Say”). As to PTA, the almost balanced proportion of connotation references was present in “Crossroads” program, launched during the referendum run-up. Its guests interchangeably were representatives of “pro” and “con” of the draft amendments to the Main Law. Another program of the Public Television, “5th Wheel”, had mostly a “face to face” format, that is, its participants were both the supporters and opponents of constitutional amendments, expressing both positive and negative opinions. This resulted in the neutral nature of the program. Unlike these channels, the commenting programs of “ALM”, “Attitude” and “Price of the Question”, addressed the event number one for Armenia only “in passing”. This probably reflected the stance of the TV company, since their host and direct participant is the owner of “ALM” himself. At the same time, the nature of partial references was either neutral or positive.
4. Coverage in print media. Of all newspapers monitored the greatest attention to the referendum, draft amendments to the Constitution, etc., was paid by “Haikakan Zhamanak” (31.2% of the total number of pieces studied in the daily). It is followed by “Hayots Ashkhar” (26.9%), “Aravot” (26.5%), “Respublika Armenia” (21.3%), “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” (17.9%), “Golos Armenii” (11.5%), “Azg” (8.1%). All publications displayed quite significant interest to the subject. At the same time, the pieces, fully dealing with the constitutional reform, prevailed over the number of pieces, partially dealing with the subject.
5. Connotation coloring of newspaper coverage. Pieces in official “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” and “Respublika Armenia” were presented only in neutral or positive context (no negative attitude was recorded in any of the pieces). The articles, dealing with the activities, the opinions of the proponents of the renewed Constitution bore mostly positive nature, and those of opponents – neutral.
The attitudes of “Haikakan Zhamanak” and “Hayots Ashkhar” are very similar, with a mirroring proportion. Both dailies had almost equal fraction of neutral and connotation references, yet these had polar coloring: in “Haikakan Zhamanak” negative references prevailed, while in “Hayots Ashkhar” the predominance was give to the positive ones. The criticism (on the pages of “Haikakan Zhamanak”) and approval (in “Hayots Ashkhar”) were contained in articles touching upon certain provisions of the draft amendments to the Constitution: in particular, positive/negative opinions were voiced over the power distribution between the executive and the legislative branches, the dual citizenship. “Haikakan Zhamanak” was actively covering the campaign and the stances of the opponents of the draft of renewed Constitution, while “Hayots Ashkhar” focused on those of its supporters.
Such parallel is noticeable also in the coverage of two other newspapers – “Aravot” and “Golos Armenii”. Against the background of prevailing neutral references in both newspapers, the proportion of connotation mentionings is quantitatively the same, yet qualitatively polar: in “Aravot” the negative references are almost four time more than the positive ones, in “Golos Armenii” – the positive references exceed the negative ones more than four times. There was also a drastic difference in the attitude expressed in the newspaper pieces towards specific aspects of the constitutional reform. For example, the abolition of the ban on dual citizenship was seen on the pages of “Aravot” to be one of the drawbacks of the draft, while in “Golos Armenii” it was qualified as its achievement.
“Azg” daily, paying least attention to the subject of Constitution, is the only publication having an almost equal proportion of positive and negative references, and the attitude of the newspaper may generally be described as neutral.
6. The coverage by print and broadcast media of subjects, related to constitutional reform. In terms of mentioning of the subjects, being directly related to the constitutional reform, the lead topics for both broadcast and print media monitored in their coverage were the issues of organizing and conducting a referendum, and on other general matters of the constitutional amendments. The third most frequently discussed subject on TV channels was the dual citizenship. In newspapers this subject was rated only the sixth, while the rights and freedoms of the RA citizens were the third. On TV the rights and freedoms rated the fifth. The television spoke a bit more about the authority of the RA President (4th place on TV and 5th in newspapers), and the press – about the authority of the RA National Assembly (4th place in newspapers and 6th on TV). The elective right and referenda is another subject that scored over one hundred references in newspapers but did not get even a dozen mentionings on TV air. Almost equal positions in broadcast and print media were given to: the jurisdiction and authority of the RA Government, the independence of the judiciary, local self-government and the status of Yerevan. The outsiders both on TV and in newspapers were: the status and the competence of the RA Prosecutor’s Office, the sphere of information and freedom of expression, the issue of the dismissal of communal heads.
7. Media direction. All TV companies and four out of seven newspapers (“Hayastani Hanrapetutiun”, “Respublika Armenia”, “Hayots Ashkhar”, “Golos Armenii”) monitored covered the forthcoming referendum, the amendments to the Constitution, etc., with a slant towards the supporters of the draft. A strongly critical stance was taken by “Haikakan Zhamanak”, while “Aravot” was inclined towards the opponents of the document. “Azg” did not display obvious likes or dislikes.
The YPC report on media monitoring in full will soon be placed on web site www.ypc.am . It will be presented in “Studies” section, as well as published as a separate brochure.