Presidential 'hotline' to act against 'false information' in Armenia

Public relations and information center of the President’s Administration has launched a ‘Hot-line’ service aimed at collecting data on cases of misinformation and falsifications of facts related to Armenia and Armenians from the internet and various other open sources of information. The service will also look for “violations of the right to receive reliable information with the objective of taking action to eradicate such violations”.
“Dissemination of inaccurate, partial, false information and misinformation, formation of negative opinion about Armenia and Armenians seriously damage the international authority of the Republic of Armenia and the information interests of Armenians”, the official statement runs – soliciting calls to [email protected] if met with such information.
This news poses a variety of questions. What is the prime target for the center? Will it be paying more attention to information sources based in Turkey, Azerbaijan? If yes – how does the center plan to counter disinformation disseminated by them – clearly it has neither the authority nor the technical means to counter information disseminated by news outlets like Hurriet or Day.az.
Does this than turn out to become a tool directly primarily at news sources based in Armenia? Can it be considered a disguised form of censorship? What is the legal basis for the ‘action’ to be taken? The Armenian Constitution and media legislation says nothing about the ‘right to receive reliable information’ – who has invented it and for what purpose?

(Thanks to Ogostos’ blog for bringing this to my attention)

Serzh Sargsian's 1 year in power

“We shall build the Armenia where mutual respect, love, and tolerance will prevail,” Serzh Sargsian swore on April 9, 2008 in his inaugural address, hidden behind a police wall that encircled most of central Yerevan.
The Northern Avenue in downtown Yerevan that has been the scene of daily meetings of opposition supporters over the past year was cleared of all protesters and remained under tight police control for the second consecutive day on Thursday. David Jalalian, a journalist from the A1Plus.am news service who covered the incident, was beaten by one of the policemen and hospitalized from the scene. 
All of this hardly resembles the “Armenia where mutual respect, love, and tolerance prevail.”

Still no clarity on senior Armenian police officer's murder case


Deputy chief of Armenia’s police Colonel Gevorg Mherian, 34 was shot dead just outside his apartment in Yerevan late on February 3.  President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday strongly condemned Mheryan’s murder, hinting it may have had to do with his anti-corruption activities.

Mheryan_murder_suspect
Picture of Mheryan murder suspect on Aravot Newspaper, February 6 issue

A generated photo of the suspect has been published by some Armenian newspapers yesterday. Armenian police confirmed that publicized picture is their probable suspect – constructed based on eyewitness accounts, although nobody has been arrested in connection with the killing yet.
Mheryan was heading the passport and visa departments of the police as well as the legal support department.
The passport and visa departments are notorious for their level of corruption and last year a range of high ranking officials from those departments were fired, apparently as a result of Mheryan’s activities.
Admittedly, this murder has caused quite a stirring, I have been getting emails and enquiries from Armenian friends living abroad, asking what’s the story. Well – if you’re asking my opinion – it looks more like vendetta or a trivial case, rather than a big case of corrupt criminals facing the good guys, but media have been paying a disproportionately large amount of attention to this case, perhaps because of lack of any other development in the country. I don’t know. RIP to Mheryan – that’s all I can say for now, hoping for more clarity in the near future.

Armenian bloggers hail Obama, with slight reservations…

“Did my small part today”, American citizen Nazarian writes, having voted for Obama,”The polls opened at 7 am. There were people who had been in line since around 6 am. Some of the poll workers said that people came over at 5 am. I was there at quarter past seven and the whole thing took less than an hour with half an hour of wait outside”, the blogger describes his voting experience.
Unzipped is inspired: “They proved that impossible is possible in America. They proved that ‘American dream’ exists”,he says, meanwhile, warning of possible disillusionment,”Expectations are so high of him that chances to get disappointed are very high too. Beginning of new era, or so I hope.”
Political scientist Artashes Boyajian believes in Obama campaign motto – “Change we can believe in!”, he says, “The world needs a positive and respectful attitude from America, for a change”, Artashes goes on to explain. “Let this be a victory of intelligence over arrogance, of responsibility over recklessness, of decency over shameful fear-mongering!!!”.
Pigh is original, as always -“Friends, why is it that you’re taking Obama’s election with such joy”, writes the blogger, known for his Republican political outlook and coincidentally, bearing the name Pigh, which stands for elephant in Armenian,”What, do we all care for the rebirth of powerful America?”
“IMHO”,the blogger goes on to say, “the brave-little-soldier Mccain and silly Palin would quickly bring the “global stronghold of democracy” to its logical end. Our Armenians, instead, are so joyful! So joyful! All our office looks like at Easter holidays.” And don’t hope that Obama will deliver his campaign pledge and recognize the Armenian Genocide, Pigh warns at the end, thus explaining his reservations on Obama victory.
Throughout the US election campaign and especially more so in the recent weeks, there were speculations in the Armenian blogosphere, that Obama is only the result of skillful PR. Uzogh, however, disagrees. “One thing I can see from Obama’s stance is – morality. He tries to show (and personally, I am convinced in it), that he cares about all the values, which are important for all the people, regardless of their being black, white or whatever. You can call all this – dirty PR and hold me for a naive romantic. Well, I guess we’ll have to live and see for ourselves”.
“It comes as no surprise that Armenian-Americans who supported Obama–most likely the vast majority of them although there’s probably no way to say for sure–are ecstatic about his being elected as president. He has made several promises to the Armenian-American community, most notably to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In a press release issued by his campaign Obama for America it clearly states his dedication to recognition”, Christian Garbis has written, reflecting on the overall excitement with Obama’s election among Armenians. “Even if he does not live up to this promise, it would not be his fault. He would not be the only president to refrain from doing so–in recent memory both President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said similar things as campaign pledges. The US State Department policy has always been one favoring Turkey’s interests, and Armenian Genocide recognition has never been one of them”.  At any rate, Christian concludes, “Obama will nevertheless embrace and instill change internally in the US and also around the world. I can’t wait to see him visit Armenia one day”
Download the Armenian language podcast of this post, also featuring an interview with LiveJournal blogger Aovin, from here or listen to it online, by clicking the player icon below.

Podcast: The global crisis as seen on the blogging week

The 23rd issue of “Armenian Blogosphere” Radio Program is out and can be downloaded from here. The program brings comments by bloggers on the decline in global markets and shift in US and Russian policies in the Caucasus.
Athanatoi has detected warming of Russia-Turkey and Russia-Azerbaijan relations seeing dangers for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in this shift of Russian intersets. Mark Grigoryan on the other hand, has interviewed American co-chairman of OSCE Minsk Group – Mathew Bryza, and notes, that first time ever a co-chair speaks to an international media outlet and states, that the Karabakh conflict should be settled based on the principle of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. “This indicates a shift of US approach to the Karabakh conflict”, Mark Grigoryan thinks. Kornelij Glas comments on the fall of Russian stock indices and decline of oil prices below $89. Nazarian compares the US and Russian economies and sees no reason for Russian speculations about the downfall of US economy and perceptions on takeover of the US interests in the world by Russia.
Back to Armenian realities. Following the President’s address to the nation from the Parliament, Uzogh has found a fundamental difference between President Serge Sargsian and his predicessor – Robert Kocharyan. While “Kocharyan sees the state as a political system”, the blogger remarks, “Sargsyan sees it as an economic one”. Mark Grigoryan looks at the speech from another perspective – the President didn’t say anything about 1) Armenia-Turkey relations 2) Karabakh conflict 3) Georgia-Russia conflict 4) Events of March 1st. “So it turns out the president didn’t say anything on the most important issues?”, the journalist-blogger asks?
This podcast also features an interview with wonderful Armenian blogger and writer Byurie.

Armenian bloggers take part in Presidential press conference on equal terms with journalists

On July 21 a news conference was held at the presidential office marking the 100th day of Serzh Sarkissian’s presidency. 2 bloggers were invited to the press conference on equal terms with 38 journalists, making the number of invitees a symbolic 40. 40 questions were asked to the president – and bloggers were given the chance to get answers to 1 question each, on equal terms with journalists. In fact, considering that some pro-opposition media weren’t invited, including “Haykakan Zhamanak” newspaper which has the highest circulation among dailies in Armenia (the print-run is over 10,000 copies), the invited bloggers were ‘even more equal’ than some journalists. The precedent is surely unprecedented not only in Armenia, but accross most countries of the world.
It has to be said that Serzh Sargsyan had a blog established on his behalf even before he was sworn in as president of Armenia, collecting several hundred questions from Armenian bloggers on the shaky political situation after the disputed presidential elections held in February and the violent clashes between the opposition supporters and the police forces in capital Yerevan on March 1. With the initiative of Akunamatata_Ser, who remembered that back in March President Sargsyan had promised to answer the questions of bloggers again on his 100th day of presidency, around 50 questions were collected. As the blogger reports in another entry.

It turned out that the people on the helms of government actually look after us and even follow us. Today akunamatata_ser & pigh were invited to the presidential palace!!!!!! It turned out the fact that we remember and don’t forget the promises to bloggers hasn’t slipped the eye of the ‘big brother’

In an excited entry RealArmenia welcomes the participation of Armenian bloggers in the press conference, noteing, that “Armenia ,so far,becomes one of the rare country where the bloggers are going to be equal to journalists” and congratulating Sergey Chamanyan (akunamatata_ser) and Tigran Kocharyan (pigh) for the honor.
Not all accepted the news with the same type of excitement. An arrey of criticism and arguments broke out in the Armenian blogosphere.Nazarian remarked, that “The invited were palace bloggers serving the needs of the regime. The questions they asked obviously were pro-regime.Unzipped went further, wondering “may be the real intention behind recent close engagements of presidential staff with few pro-government bloggers is to discredit blogs/blogging in the eyes of population, in general, from the beginning, without even allowing their further development.” Tumanyan has even looked forward 70 years and created a short negative-fantasy story in the best traditions of Orwell’s 1984.
Veteran journalist Mark Grigorian has initiated a more theoretical discussion on the acceptability of inviting bloggers, i.e. non-professional journalists to a press-conference, which pre-supposes at least a certain degree of professionalism. Mark Grigorian speculates, that although the invited bloggers have around the same numbers of readers as some newspapers, the blogs are still should not be considered as mass media:

The blog is not updated regularly (one day a blog might have several entries, on another days – none at all), the blogger might not necissarily be the author of information published on the blog, and the blog might not always contain inormation — we know that often blog entries are just photos or a link to a music video on YouTube, etc.
Hence blogging requires other skills, then those necessary for working in Mass Media. And that was perfectly illustrated on Armenian president’s press conference.

Former journalist and media professional Ogostos is also not impressed:

There is no logic in the appearance of bloggers in a presidential press-conference []. If presidential spin-doctors consider bloggers full-fledged players in the information field and want to demonstrate their “transparency” by inviting bloggers, they should be aware, that this “transparency” is fully blown-up by the absence of pro-opposition journalists – who are undoubtedly NO LESS FULL-FLEDGED PLAYERS. If the presidential sprin-doctors view bloggers as civil-society, they should also invite other members of civil society and call it public consultations or something else, instead of inviting a press-conference.

In response to the wave of criticism, Pigh makes some valid points, saying he doesn’t respect most journalists because of their “unscrupulousness, non-professionalism and venal practices” and draws the picture of the experienced blogger, who has no editor slowing down and stopping from publishing any information, as there’s no salary involved at the end of the month. The blogger says his motive to attend the press-conference was to promote blogging and blogosphere, and he beleives the objective was reached. “Take it easy, people”, Pigh tells his critics, summerizing the acheivements:

Dear bloggers. It is so cool that we, positionists and oppositionsists, have stepped on the feet of journalists with our blogs. And even with our professionalism. I personally am flattered to see, that the number of my blog’s pageviews surpasses 90 percent of printruns of Armenian newspapers. It is great to be able to enter the blog, see a post and be able to express your agreement disagreement (instead of running to the courts and demanding refutation in the newspapers). [] Virtual reality is slowly, but surely stepping on the feet of printed press. Progress, has slowly but surely penetrated here as well.

Armenian news headlines during the week

The big news at the start of the week was ex-president Robert Kocharyan’s interview given to Mediamax News Agency in response to ex-president Levon Ter-Petrossian’s speech on May 1st. Quite expectedly, Kocharyan talked complete crap, noting, that as he is not Armenia’s President anymore, he will be more unrestrained in his speech – not that he was ever restrained or anything.
Basically, while the great, educated egotist Ter-Petrossian was analyzing the situation in Armenia in nicely formulated sentences and trying to establish grounds for dialogue with current president of Armenia – Serzh Sargsyan, by laying most of the blame on Kocharyan, the Second president of Armenia chose to respond in the manner typical for his semi-educated egotistic self, calling the First president names, like “dumb” (տկարամիտ) and “deeply indecent” (խորապես անպարկեշտ), and saying, that it was the opposition who needed the blood and deaths on March 1st. [text here was edited, as the original post contained obviously biased points of views] Now, while I clearly recall at least one case, when Levon Ter-Petrossian spoke on the rallies, saying, that they will go till the end, that doesn’t mean, that human casualties can be blamed on the opposition. Moreover, in the situation, when the country disparately needs peace and reconciliation, and when the opposition has just attempted the first vague steps towards dialogue, Kocharyan’s words are rather unwelcome.
Continue reading “Armenian news headlines during the week”

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