Podcast: Armenian blogosphere under the state of emergency

The state of emergency announced in Yerevan was also emergency for the Armenian bloggers. For 20 days when many newspapers and online publications were not being published, blogosphere had turned into the main territory for searching and disseminating alternative information. After a long interruption due to the state of emergency situation, the Internews Armenia team have put together another radio program covering the Armenian blogosphere during the state of emergency. The podcast of the program is also available.

Although, according to the law On the Mass Media, blogs are also considered to be media and were obliged to obey the decree on the state of emergency, only several blogs stopped their activities or restricted the access to the postings.

“The Armenian blogosphere is not homogeneous – many people write from foreign countries and were located beyond the restrictions of state of emergency,” says Arthur Papyan that, as an observer of Armenian blogs, has been following the “blog movement”. “There were also bloggers that had apparent pro-governmental positions, declaring from the beginning that they did not care about the restrictions and would go on writing. For example, pigh that is the most famous in the Armenian blogs of livejournal.com was the first to announce about that, creating a precedent.

Arthur states that the state of emergency was a period of prosperity for the Armenian blogosphere. Those that were not so active became very lively, and numerous new blogs were launched. Also, the so-called “underground publications” were launched, functioning according to bloggers’ technologies and principles. “A few bloggers supporting Levon Ter-Petrossian realized that, by writing in their blogs, they were putting themselves into danger and started publishing the anonymous Paykar newspaper that was actually being disseminated in the whole Internet. The same can be said about March 1, InfoArmenia,” Arthur clarifies. He considers that the blog of A1+ was doing miracles at that period. It is being run by Shushan Harutyunyan that is famous by her nickname Blansh.

There was more workload for Shushan in conditions of state of emergency, although the blog of A1+ was not being updated for 20 days.

“In the evening, after the publication of the decree we posted a statement in the blog about the state of emergency and received more than 850 responses within one night. We informed that we were not going to update the blog but you could take advantage of your right and continue your discussions. For several hours a day, I was only reading comments and erasing those that contained swearwords,” Shushan tells.

According to her, people used to discuss the posted materials in the segment of the comments, whereas in the state of emergency people were sharing information; some were even searching for their relatives.

Shushan had opened a new page in her personal blog – “One minute’s silence in remembrance for 20 days,” writing the word silence. “The interesting thing is, that up to 1000 people were hitting the page to see how I was keeping silent. They were writing comments, encouraging me, or on the contrary.”

A1+ was also very active in YouTube, having their own channel or video blog there. In the beginning of March, that channel even turned up among most viewed 20 channels.

“YouTube turned into a phenomenon that everybody started talking about it. Even the government considered it necessary to publish a denial about the video on the Internet on Public TV,” Arthur stats. He considers blocking YouTube to be a big shame.

“I was in England those days and could see how that news was being disseminated – “YouTube has been closed in Armenia.” Before that, we could hear that YouTUbe was closed in China, Burma… And then also in Armenia. That news had a bigger response than, for example, the incidents on March 1.”

In these extraordinary circumstances, the programs circumventing the blocks helped a lot – http://www.anonymouse.org; http://www.freeproxyserver.ca…

During the state of emergency one of the newly-elected blogs exceeded all the records, receiving about 800 responses in one day. It’s about the blog Serzhsargsyan.livejournal.com by Serzh Sargsyan, where people were posing questions to the prime minister.

That blog has been opened and run by Ruben Muradyan – a blogger with the nickname Uzogh.

“The main purpose was posing the bloggers’ questions to the prime minister. There are few of them but there are intellectuals,” Ruben says.

According to him, Serzh Sargsyan has asked to prepare a list of the most critical 65 questions for the TV interview. There have been questions of famous bloggers among them. The answers to the other questions will be found in the blog.

“Most of the questions were about the incidents on March 1 and the internal political situation. There were also complaints, funny and absurd questions. They will be put into groups and answered,” Ruben promises. More than 10 days have passed after the television interview but there are still only the questions and answers from the TV interview in the blog.

Ruben Muradyan also ensured that the prime minister’s blog will not be closed and will have “a very interesting fate.”

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