MEO Public Sessions 2014

First MEO Public Sessions were organized by Yerevan Press Club with the support of Deutsche Welle Academy and “A1+” TV company.

Forth Aquarium Session. Complaint of Arzuman Harutyunian, President of Audio-Visual Reporters Association, on “Affectionate Torture” Program of ATV TV Channel 

On January 25, 2014 the Media Ethics Observatory (MEO) considered the complaint of Arzuman Harutyunian, President of Audio-Visual Reporters Association, on “Affectionate Torture” program of “Ajar Windows” talk show cycle broadcasted by ATV TV channel on December 9, 2013.

The program told the story of the creation and collapse of a family, also touching upon trafficking. The President of Audio-Visual Reporters Association believes that when covering this topic the authors of the program violated both legal and professional ethical norms: in particular, they publicized private information about the victims of trafficking. On December 19, Arzuman Harutyunian sent a letter to the administration of the TV channel with a thorough description of all the violations that had taken place in the program. A reply, dated January 14 and signed by ATV General Director Vahagn Khachatrian, noted that the TV company disagreed with the comments made by Association and was planning to broadcast “Affectionate Torture”-2.

On January 21, 2014 Arzuman Harutyunian turned to the Media Ethics Observatory. Regardless of the invitation, the representatives of ATV did not take part in the session.

Considering the complaint, the members of the MEO came to the conclusion that the program contained violations of both ethical norms and international conventions on trafficking (Ակվարիումային նիստ 4).

Third Aquarium Session. Coverage of the Major Entertainment Events of Public Interest – Sport, Music, International Shows, Contests, etc.

According to MEO members, these kinds of events are frequently covered in Armenia with violations of the professional ethics; recommendations were made to improve the media coverage (Ակվարիումային նիստ 4).

Second Aquarium Session. Prohibiting the Participation of Journalists in the Defense of the Doctoral Candidate Dissertation by Taron Margaryan, Mayor of Yerevan

Background of the Issue: On December 26, 2013 the Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan was to defend his doctoral candidate dissertation at an open session of the Higher Attestation Commission in Armenian State University of Economics. A group of students and policemen hindered the professional activities of the journalists who intended to enter and cover this event. The journalists were not allowed into the conference hall; they were pushed away and insulted.

On December 27, Yerevan Press Club, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Media Initiatives Center, “Asparez” Journalists’ Club, Media Diversity Institute-Armenia and the “Journalists for the Future” NGO made a statement with regard to the incident.

“We strongly condemn that students of the same University were involved in the inappropriate actions of blocking the entrance for media representatives and in the squabbles with journalists, insulting the latter. The argument put forth by the Economics University administration that the University is a controlled-access institution, and the journalists should have received the appropriate pass in advance, does not stand any criticism, for when organizing any public event the higher educational institution is obliged to ensure access to all willing to attend, including journalists. It is obvious that a public event like a doctoral candidate dissertation defense was closed for journalists specifically because the aspirant of the scholarly degree was the Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan. And even though the latter asserted that he was not aware of blocking the entrance for journalists, it is hard to imagine that anything of the kind could happen against his will. This incident became an obvious proof of the fact that the larger part of the political elite and top officials in Armenia prefer to hide their activities and have not yet managed to internalize the universally accepted norm in the civilized world, according to which as public figures they are positioned in the center of public attention,” the statement of the six journalistic organizations highlighted in particular.

The representatives of media NGOs demanded the following: explanations on the incident from the Mayor of Yerevan; evaluation of how appropriate to his position is the Rector of the Armenian State Economics University, “for involving students in immoral actions” – from the RA Ministry of Education and Science; and calling the initiators of the incident to account for hindering the legitimate activities of the journalists – from the law-enforcement bodies.

On January 13, 2014 at the New Year reception for media representative at the City Hall of Yerevan the Aravot.am correspondent asked Taron Margaryan whether he intended to apologize to journalists for the incident in the Economics University (Aravot.am, January 13, 2014, “Taron Margaryan Did not Apologize but He Condemned”). Emphasizing that the meeting with the journalists was organized on another occasion, Taron Margaryan, however, admitted that the incident had taken place and that he naturally condemned it, but at the time of the incident he “was inside, was not present at the moment, did not see it and if he were there, none of that would have happened” (Ակվարիումային նիստ 2).

First Aquarium Session. Journalists’ Protest Action against the Ratification of the Armenian-Russian Gas Agreement by the RA National Assembly on December 23, 2013 

Background of the Issue: On December 23, 2013 at the special session of the RA National Assembly journalists accredited to the parliament held a protest action against the ratification of the Armenian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on the sale of a batch of shares of “ArmRusGasProm” CJSC to Russia and the terms of the company’s future activities. Four reporters with placards that called the MPs to come to their senses and say no to the agreement so shackling for Armenia entered the National Assembly hall right before the vote. A protest flash mob was held also in the box for the press where the media representatives held posters, reading “Do not Vote for the Russian Gas” and “We Are against the Russian Gas”.

Evaluations of this action within the journalistic community are dual: some believe that the media representatives violated the norms of professional ethics, while the others are convinced that in issues so vitally important for the country a journalist ought not to remain as a wing-side spectator and has a right to express his/her civic stand by all available means (Ակվարիումային նիստ 1).