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?