Ahead of February 2008 Presidential elections to be held in Armenia, the recent developments in the Armenian politics have greatly antagonized the Armenian media landscape, triggering a range of negative trends in the coverage of political, social, economic reporting issues.
These trends were recognized by a group of 25 media and journalistic associations who adopted a statement on November 11, noting the mentioned negative developments and adopting a message of warning to avoid an even greater polarization in the press.
According to the interim report of YPC media monitoring prior to Presidential elections 2008, “The aggregate findings of monitoring in October allow to easily single out those potential candidates and their most influential supporters that are seen to be opposition (Levon Ter-Petrosian, Artur Baghdasarian, Artashes Geghamyan, Aram Karapetian, Raffi Hovannisian, Stepan Demirchian, Aram Z. Sargsian) from those who are to greater or smaller extent identified with the authorities (Serge Sargsian, Gagik Tsarukian, Vartan Oskanian, Armen Rustamian, Vahan Hovhannesian): the former ones have a negative balance of connotation references, the latter ones – positive. (…)
Speaking about the lack of diversity on the Armenian air, it is also important to note that a significant group of politicians from both pro-governmental and opposition camps are closed for media. They often avoid interviews, refuse to answer the journalists’ questions that raise issues uncomfortable for them. This “style” – at least, at this stage of pre-election race – is typical (…) The communication with the public in the mode of monologue (at rallies, through promotional materials), the lack of discussions and dialogue are a sign of purely promotional, populist forms of waging political campaign that do not enable the voters to find answers to many of their questions, to make an informed choice.”
While the coming year 2008 is a year of opportunities for the media to cover the approaches of all presidential hopefuls on most pressing issues the Armenian society is facing as they campaign ahead of February 2008 elections, it is unjust to lay all the blame on media for engaging in blackmail, libel and defamation. The Media in today’s Armenia is anything, but the independent watchdog it is supposed to be according to expectations from it.
I used to speculate before the past elections, that in the condition of total control over the television and broadcast media in general, and near total lack of objectivity in the printed press, with only vague attempts by newspapers like Aravot Daily to hold a balance, the only hope rests with the Internet media and the Blogosphere.
Today, I’m not so sure anymore, especially as the popularity and user-base of the online media will continue to grow, and with some presidential candidates relying heavily on online media for campaigning purposes, it is clear to me, that very soon the Internet will come under direct fire and control as well.
Starting from this week Armenian Observer Blog will be posting a series of articles on the content, user-base, influence and statistics of the Online Armenian Media, hoping to find answers to the following questions:
- Is the online media in Armenia influential enough to make a difference during the upcoming election campaign.
- Is the content published in the online media substantially different from the content of the print or broadcast media in any way, and if so, will the differences be substantial enough to make them a viable competitor to the traditional media.
PanARMENIAN.Net will be the first to come under scrutiny, as they have been most open and ready to share their statistics and strategy and willing to support my idea. In the meanwhile, I expect your reactions to the two questions posted above.
1: Internally to Armenia, no.
Abroad, especially in the Diaspora, yes. However, the main problem in both cases is simply that the majority of Armenians here and abroad are not interested in the political situation here. Of course, limited and poor quality internet access also is a problem, but apathy prevents it from reaching it’s full potential here anyway.
2. The Internet-based media has been funded by “less political” sources than the print and TV media. Well, arguably. Armenia Now, Hetq Online, for example, are funded openly and sometimes clandestinely by diplomatic missions and diasporan organizations. However, politically, they could be considered less “polarized” when it comes to domestic politics.
However, the main benefit of the Internet, of course, is that forget the media so much, but more that when you have a partisan media they only quote the voices and opinions they want. The Internet — especially blogs and forums etc — allow all our voices be heard. Famous last words, but let’s hope so anyway, although most with Internet access are not necessarily representative of the whole country.
Perhaps what the Internet can offer, then, is more plurality.
I usually regard the internet users in Armenia, including the blogosphere, as the young, middle class people. Hence, I’m far from beleiving, that the internet and online media can offer anything for democracy. However, the point about plurality is taken, especially if we get more bloggers like you – Onnik.
Regarding the Internet, journalism and blogging, you might be interested in this TV discussion on france 24:
I shall be the contact person for the France 24 Observers project here in Armenia.
[…] of the purposes of this study was to reveal the media situation in Armenia. More specifically, considering the overall situation […]
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