Really Funny: UK Expert Praises The Subjective Media Coverage in Armenia!

Karen Prichard, the head of a division at the British non-governmental organization ECHO made a statement at Armenia Marriott Hotel on 8 February, according to which the Armenian media have been covering the process of the current presidential election in Armenia objectively and impartially on the whole:

[ARMINFO | 8 Feb 08] Prichard said that between 21 and 27 January, the organization’s experts studied 743 election materials that appeared in the domestic newspapers (published in both Armenian and Russian), on TV companies and the Public Radio of Armenia. Ninety per cent of the domestic media outlets presented information about all presidential candidates in this period. She said that the organization’s experts got 53 per cent of their information from the newspapers, 34 per cent from television and 23 per cent from radio.

The report, which has been commissioned by the European Foundation for Democracy and is available for download from here, is deeply flawed – and I’ve highlighted the problem area in the extract above.

Anybody remotely familiar with the Armenian media landscape will understand, what is dramatically wrong with this report – Echo have taken 53% of publications related to the elections from the newspapers, and only 34% from television, whereas, I can state that less then 1% of Armenia’s population (no more then 30,000 people) use newspapers as their prime source of information – or read any newspapers at all for that matter. Because newspapers have such an insignificant degree of influence over public life, the authorities in Armenia so far left the printed media relatively free, and because the opposition haven’t had any opportunities to find their way into the dominant medium in the country – which is television, over the past several years (after closure of A1+ and Noyan Tapan TV companies to be more exact, that is to say since 2002), the opposition have hang on to newspapers as the only medium which can voice their points of view. As a result, the newspapers in Armenia are highly biased and supportive of the opposition – but, nobody reads them, remember?

Radio is also a relatively insignificant medium when it comes to acting as a source of information – and has also been left relatively free. So what has happened is – ECHO – have taken 76% of their research material from sources, which are highly biased towards the opposition or relatively balanced, but who cover less then 10% of news consumers in the country, and put them in the same formula which television material, which, however, covers more then 95% of news consumers.

The question is – why and how could an authoritative UK research organization do such a gross mistake? Is it because they were paid a little extra, or because they’re just plain stupid?

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. It’s because they don’t give a s***.

  2. we’ll they’re member to several bodies, where you can file a complaint – and maybe I will

  3. You can knock yourself out but they still won’t care. The Westerners are not there to make Armenia democratic. That’s the job of the Armenians. Unfortunately, their attitude is actually hindering the democratization of the Armenian society.
    These organizations do more damage than good by their half-assed reports and demoralize the people. Maybe that’s what they want – that way it will be much easier to gain concessions from the authorities than if they truly were democratic.

  4. Well, I agree, it should have at least been an equal split. On the other hand, all the negative propaganda seems to actually have worked for one candidate in particular, in my opinion. However, it strikes me that the situation is significantly better than the situation in 2003. The problem is that you’ll never get a free media overnight in Armenia. It will have to evolve, but yes, criticism of evaluations and demanding more from the media will be part of that process.

  5. […] The Armenian Observer points out some valid flaws in a recent study of the media ahead of the 19 February 2008 presidential election in Armenia. In particular, the blogger says that concentrating too much on the print media skewed the actual situation. […]

  6. […] Armenian Observer points out some valid flaws in a recent study of the media ahead of the 19 February 2008 presidential election in Armenia. In […]

  7. re: The problem is that you’ll never get a free media overnight in Armenia.
    Why not? All that needs to be done is for the government to butt out of media – privatize the media they have (public TV, the parliament newspapers) and start respecting the constitutional rights of property ownership.
    But they are too weak and dim witted to bring their point forward without resorting to threats and intimidation.

  8. privatize the media

    Well, that’s really worked for the print media hasn’t it? Instead of just pro-government propaganda we have pro-opposition propaganda as well.
    Basically, there is very little professionalism in the media which is as much a problem as anything else. Besides, let’s also understand that the pro-radical opposition media has been appalling in this election as well.
    Haykakan Zhamanak used to attack Ter-Petrossian’s opponents sometimes at very low and unsophisticated levels, and the recent firing of the editor of Zhamanak Yerevan for not pumping out the precise propaganda the former president’s team wanted.
    I mean, let’s get real here. It isn’t just government control that means you can’t trust the news here, it’s economic and political interests on both sides.
    Just that the broadcast media is largely controlled by one side, although I think Artur will agree that Yerkir Media run by the Dashnaks is better than the others on TV.

  9. And actually, the importance of Public TV should not be overlooked. Such services are necessary in a media scene especially like Armenia which ultimately gets controlled by advertising and economic interests. The issue is having the checks and balances to prevent government control, but that will come with time.

  10. Actually, I’m still somewhat confused why I haven’t heard much concern from other journalists and media watchdog’s about Armine Ohanyan’s dismissal and control of the pro-Ter-Petrossian press by his campaign team.
    Should the media be free or not? It doesn’t matter whether it’s government or opposition party that’s doing the controlling, does it? Both are wrong although of course, broadcast media has more extensive audience.

  11. I see media like any other form of privately owned business – either for profit or non-profit. And like any other business, it is the consumer who decides which media thrives and which one doesn’t. The government should not have any interest in these enterprises and should look at them equally when it comes to taxation and other regulations.
    I see nothing wrong with independent or politically oriented media as they all have their distinct audiences. Any media outlet able to capture a larger share of the audience will grow and I bet it will not be a politically oriented one.

  12. Nazarian – elections times are distinctly different from every other time, and the Armenian Electoral Codes stipulates certain provisions as to how exactly media should behave during eleciton times:
    Sorry – but it’s Armenian – so I can’t really copy-paste here.

  13. Well, okay, the consumer decides, but journalistic ethics must have some part to play in that. However, any Chomsky reader will also know that commercial ownership and advertising can influence content and coverage which is something that both you and Observer are against in the form of the government.
    Anyway, I know Americans who believe that PBS and NPR are vital in the U.S. and I’d also consider the BBC the same in the U.K. The problem in Armenia is that Public TV and Radio is in its infancy and needs to evolve more into a self-autonomous service. Considering the state of the rest of the stations, I think that Public TV and Radio still has a lot to offer — cultural programming on TV for example, or minority language broadcasting on radio.
    They say that British TV is among the best in the world, and I think that’s precisely because of the BBC which has also set the standards by which other more commercially-orientated stations have to meet. In terms of programming I certainly don’t think H1 offers less than its private competitors. Indeed, it probably offers more, especially when it comes to Armenian-language programming including the dubbing of films instead of just showing ripped off DVDs in Russian.

  14. And actually, what people are against with regards to H1 is not its programming, but more its news, especially at times of elections. I also consider that while it may be biased (I don’t know because I don’t watch TV at all), it does at least offer free time to candidates during elections and PSAs, for example. This would not be possible on private TV stations except by mutual agreement. Legal obligations to do this on commercial stations would probably be met with fierce resistance and I suspect that it wouldn’t pass in the first place.

  15. Onnik – just to be clear – I can state with full confidence, that the Public TV of Armenia is the best TV in Armenia. Speaking of News content – also, when they want to cover objectively, the PTA are by far the best.

  16. Observer, that’s why I mentioned the ‘other regulations’ when I wrote
    “The government should not have any interest in these enterprises and should look at them equally when it comes to taxation and other regulations.”

  17. Putting everything aside how they can come up with such conclusions when they dont speak/understand Armenian? This is a question that needs to be asked.
    If they rely to local resources or outsource then they cant guarantee impartiality. Many people are after some quick bucks nowdays, some even wait for teh last minute to sell their votes to teh highest bidder. What’s teh current price, 5 , 10 , 15K ?

  18. Haik – their local partner was MediaBrand Agency: The domain is registered under the name of: Ara Tadevosyan –
    Media Max CJSC, 1 Baghramyan ave., apt 32.

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