YPC Weekly Newsletter


“The Role of Mass Media in the Process of Covering International Crisis”


On April 18 in Yerevan a seminar “The Role of Mass Media in the Process of Covering International Crisis”, organized by Yerevan Press Club and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, was held. Journalists, politicians and scientists from Armenia, Germany and Bulgaria discussed the experience the media of the three countries have in the coverage of international crisis. The main emphasis at the meeting was placed on the Iraq war.
The Parliamentary Advisor of the Free Democratic Party Parliamentary Group of German Bundestag Michael Link in his presentation noted that presently the German media do not display true diversity when covering international news, unlike the domestic affairs. Moreover, they often become a tool in the armed conflicts. For example, Michael Link noted, the viewers had to watch a great number of different TV channels, including the international ones, to gain a more or less comprehensive picture of the Iraq war. In the opinion of former member of Bulgarian delegation in PACE, currently the Consultant of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Asparuh Panov, the weakest spot of the Bulgarian journalism is the foreign news. However, the Iraq crisis helped the Bulgarian media to get out of the adolescence and be at a high professional level: the press was abundant in different opinions and positions. The view at the international crises from Erevan was presented by the Observer of “Golos Armenii” newspaper Aris Ghazinian and the Director of Armenian Center of Political and International Studies Aghassi Yenokian. Both presenters noted that the Armenian press was unable to convey a complete picture of the Iraq war and its possible impact on the country and region. One of the reasons for that was the internal political context (presidential elections) the conflict coincided with. None of the platforms of the RA presidency candidates contained distinct foreign policy priorities. Therefore, the international news issues were neglected by Armenian media.


On April 17 a satellite press-conference Yerevan-Baku was held under the project of Yerevan and Baku Press Clubs “Possible Resolutions to the Karabagh Conflict: Expert Evaluations and Media Coverage”, supported by OSI Network Media Program. Technical assistance in its conductance was provided by “Mir” Interstate TV and Radio Company. This the fifth space bridge giving floor for Armenia and Azerbaijani politicians to answer the questions of journalists of the neighboring country. The first similar meeting took place in December last year (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 7-13, 2002).
This time the Baku studio hosted a Milli Meclis deputy, a member of Azerbaijani delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Asim Mollazadeh. The questions of the Armenian media present in the Yerevan studio mostly referred to the attitudes of the South Caucasus countries to the Iraq war, the honoring of commitments of the Council of Europe by Armenia and Azerbaijan, in particular, those on the peaceful resolution of the Karabagh problem, the presidential elections, over in Armenia and upcoming in Azerbaijan.


On April 12-13 in Tsaghkadzor a seminar “Media and Elections: Impact on the Choice of the Society”, organized by the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the support of the Council of Europe, was held. The seminar brought together representatives of media, non-governmental organizations, state structures of Armenia as well as European experts. The subjects discussed included both the international experience in election campaign coverage, as well as the activities of Armenia media during the presidential election of 2003, their role in shaping the public opinion. In particular, the report of the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian was devoted to the YPC monitoring of the media coverage of the elections of the RA President, while the YPC Expert Mesrop Harutyunyan analyzed the legal regulation of media during the past election campaign.


On April 21 the official election campaign of candidates for seats at the RA National Assembly to last up to May 23 (the elections themselves are scheduled for May 25, 2003). Similarly to the campaign for RA presidency, the legislation compels the private and public broadcasters as well as the official press to provide equal conditions to the candidates running for seats at the RA NA by proportion and majority systems. Equal space with an identical tariff to each party/bloc or a majority candidate must be allocated by all the print editions, except the partisan press.
Meanwhile, the Procedure for pre-election promotion in the media by the candidates for NA seats, developed by the Central Electoral Commission, still contain the provisions that caused the discontent of the journalistic community during the presidential elections. In particular, the parties/party blocs cannot provide to other parties/party blocs the free and paid airtime allocated not only by the public but also the private broadcasters. And the newspapers, regardless their status, must announce the promotional piece of a party/bloc on the first page.
According to the resolution of the CEC, the free and paid airtime for pre-election promotion at the Public Television of Armenia is provided every evening from 18.00 till 20.30. At the same time the promotional materials are broadcast by the PTA satellite. At the Public Radio of Armenia the free airtime is allocated every day from 14.05 to 16.00, and the paid airtime – from 21.40 to 24.00. Each party/party bloc registered by proportional ballot lists is entitled to 60 minutes of free and 120 paid airtime of the Public TV. The quote of the free air time makes 120 minutes at the Public Radio, the paid air time being 180 minutes. The succession for the air time use by the parties/party blocs is determined by schedules made up after sortition.
According to the Chairman of the Council of the Public TV and Radio Company Alexan Harutiunian, the minute of paid political advertising on Public TV will be priced the same as during the presidential elections – 0. The cost of the Public Radio air will probably be less than – the price applied during the previous election campaign.
The CEC resolution prohibits the journalists and the employees of the public service broadcasting, registered as candidates, from engaging in pre-election promotion. The NA candidates also do not have a right to host authorship or other programs on the air of public and private TV and radio companies.
The activities of the state-owned press are also regulated during the pre-election campaign: “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” and “Respublika Armenia” newspapers must allocate each party/bloc a space of 0.25 quire for free publication of promotional materials.