On October 21, Levon Barseghian, Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri, called on the local media to boycott the visit of RA President Serzh Sargsian to Gyumri, Shirak region, scheduled for the following day.
Levon Barseghian urged his colleagues not to cover President’s visit (including in the future), because Serzh Sargsian has not fulfilled his election pledges: till now 4,000 families in Gyumri remain homeless (Ed.Note: December 7, 1988 earthquake brought major destruction to the Northern regions of Armenia), and the city is still facing severe poverty, migration and unemployment issues.
The head of the journalistic organization advised the media to publish materials about the life and hardships of families which still do not have a shelter, instead of covering President’s visit.
Levon Barseghian said he understood that not all media were able to join the boycott. Still he noted that neither their website Asparez.am nor “Asparez” newspaper are going to write on the visit of the head of state.
Levon Barseghian stressed that the newspaper would come out with a white spot on the place where the report on President’s visit to Gyumri could have been.
In turn, on October 21, “GALA” TV company from Gyumri assured that it will ignore the visit of Serzh Sargsian. Among the reasons for the boycott, TV channel also mentioned President’s failure to deliver the election pledges and poor social, economic situation in the city and in the Shirak region in general.
“GALA” particularly noted that Serzh Sargsian arrived in Gyumri to snip the red ribbon at the opening of the school of arts “Varduhi”, built by Hovhannes Oyunjian, American-Armenian philanthropist. The President, though, had nothing to do with the construction of the school.
“GALA” also said that the presidential press service had invited local media to film the school prior to Serzh Sargsian’s arrival, as “the school corridors were too narrow and there was no room to turn around”. Later, as the statement by “GALA” reads, the press service “gave in” and “allowed” to film from afar, while the President was leaving or getting into the car.
Having thanked the presidential press service for such an opportunity, the TV company refused to cover the visit at all, noting that for “GALA” the opening ceremony of the school will start after Serzh Sargsian’s departure from Gyumri.
On October 22, “GALA” broadcasted stories on difficult social situation of homeless families, and the website of the TV company posted photo story titled “We Do Not Cover the Visit of Serzh Sargsian to Gyumri, Instead…”.
Levon Barseghian informed YPC that two out of the three regional TV channels, a local weekly and several special correspondents in Gyumri did not join the boycott. However, the majority of special correspondents joined the campaign.
On October 23, “Asparez” newspaper was issued with an empty space on the front page as it was promised (see the photo).