NOUNEH SARKISSIAN: “ARMENIAN MEDIA ARE NOT APPROPRIATE SOURCE OF INFORMATION ABOUT UKRAINE”
Nouneh SARKISSIAN, the Managing Director of the Media Initiatives Center, speaks on the coverage of events in Ukraine by Armenian media
On the one hand, there are enough references to this topic: almost all TV stations, as well as print and online media report on the events in Ukraine. If one would refer to genres, the top would be news stories, then interviews with experts, and then some analytics. Some media, including TV companies, use new technologies – in particular, interviews and reports using Skype or mobile communication. Some online media even placed links on their web pages to the live streaming by Ukrainian broadcasters, such as Espresso TV.
On the other hand, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the overall context and quality of the information flow about Ukraine. Basically, the information is mediated, with reference to foreign, often Russian, sources. There are almost no correspondents in Kyiv representing Armenian media, practically no one has sent teams to cover the developments (with the exception, perhaps, of the Armenian Service of Radio Liberty). The events in Ukraine should be interesting for Armenia and our society, and judging by the social networks they are many people who are interested in them. However, Armenian media pay little attention to this topic; the coverage is too general and abstract. I am not discussing the context of coverage, as this aspect requires special analysis.
Basic information about the events in Ukraine, interesting for a part of the Armenian society, continues to originate from abroad, including from Ukrainian sources, social networks, online media and foreign TV channels. For a timely tracing of the events and for the understanding of the situation, the Armenian media space is not an appropriate source of information. In addition, there is a feeling that the Armenian media are cautious, if not reluctant, to address this topic seriously, to explain, to analyze. Many of our media have adopted again the safe side in detriment to professionalism and the right of the people to receive information.
If one recalls the August events in Georgia in 2008, than there was not a single Armenian crew and no journalist assigned to the neighboring country. The situation is resentfully similar. It just confirms the general trend of development of Armenian journalism, though.
JOURNALISTS AND POLICE DISCUSSED THEIR INTERRELATIONS
On February 21, representatives of journalists and the police discussed the issues of their interrelations. It was the RA Police who initiated the meeting, attended by the heads of media outlets, mostly, of the opposition ones, and of journalistic organizations. The journalists raised numerous questions before the high-rank law enforcement officials. These issues mostly dealt with cases of impeding professional activities of journalists by the police. In particular, the participants discussed the incident on February 12, when the head of the Kentron Police Department of Yerevan gave a slap in the face of Ani Gevorgian, a journalist covering public rally of the opposition party (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 11-17, 2014).
The police officers noted that the incident was being officially investigated. At the same time, the police complained that they often could not differ journalists performing their professional duties from ordinary citizens. The policemen believe that media representatives had better wear some distinctive marks during public campaigns, for example, special jackets, vests, and badges.
Apparently, the presence of video and audio recording equipment is not a sufficient enough distinctive sign for the police, as the officers usually try seize this equipment from journalists on the spot. Moreover, there are many examples, when the presence of a special identification did not protect journalists from law enforces, but, on the contrary, facilitated the task of “neutralization” of undesirable journalists. One can also cite many cases when the police internal investigations ended up with the standard formulation like “there had been no abuse of authority in the actions of the police”. In contrast to only a few incidents brought about the punishment of law enforcement officers for impeding the activities of journalists.
According to the Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Ashot Melikian, many journalists still believe that the police in most cases intentionally impede the activities of media, but generally the conversation was useful.
ANI GEVORGIAN TURNED TO SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE TO REPORT ABOUT CRIME
Ani Gevorgian, correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper, turned to the RA Special Investigative Service to report about a crime.
The journalist told the Armenian Service of Radio Liberty that she had provided the SIS with three stories: “My complaint is connected with obstruction of my professional activities by Vardan Gevorgian, a police officer, on Mashtots Avenue. There are a few videos, which show him trying to tear off the camera from my hands. The second story is connected with the fact that Sona Melikian, a woman, who presented herself as a legal adviser, stole my camera’s memory card at the Kentron Police Department of Yerevan. And the third story is violence, applied to me by Artak Poghosian, the Chief of Kentron Police Department. He slapped me and took away my phone.”
As we have reported, on February 12, Ani Gevorgian, correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper, and Sargis Gevorgian, cameraman of the iLur.am, were filming activists of the opposition party – Armenian National Congress (ANC) handing out leaflets in one of the main streets of Yerevan with information about the upcoming ANC rally. They were arrested and taken to the police station, where they were held for about four hours. Police officers took away journalists’ cameras and mistreated them. In particular, the chief of police station slapped Ani Gevorgian. The police are currently conducting an internal investigation in connection with the statement of the journalist on taking illegal actions by members of law enforcement agencies to her (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 11-17, 2014).
Special Investigative Service, in turn, began to study materials of the incident.
CPFE BELIEVES THAT RA LAW “ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION” IS BEING APPLIED INEFFICIENTLY
On February 21, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) presented the results of the monitoring of obligations assumed by Armenia in the framework of the international initiative Open Government Partnership. The study was carried out in 2013 in three areas: transparency of declarations on incomes of senior officials; standardization of the content on websites of state authorities; development of knowledge and skills of civil servants in the context of the availability of information.
In particular, during the monitoring, CPFE sent 105 queries to various government offices. The RA Ministry of Transport and Communication and the RA Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs did not respond to inquiries at all, and most of other ministries responses were late or not fully. On the basis of the data obtained, CPFE came to the conclusion that the RA Law “On Freedom of Information” is being applied inefficiently and that there are still quite a lot of issues.