Pashinyan's online press conference

Media Boycotts Pashinyan’s Virtual Press Conferences, Calling them ‘non-Democratic’

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By Ani Avetisyan

YEREVAN (OC Media) — In two separate statements, over five dozen media organizations in Armenia condemned Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s continued holding of press conferences online, calling the format “non-democratic.”

On Friday evening, the Armenian Times (Haykakan Zhamanak) newspaper, which is majority-owned by Pashinyan’s mother-in-law, citing their “sources” in the government, reported that Pashinyan was about to announce a press conference — with questions to the Prime Minister read by a presenter employed by Armenia’s Public Broadcaster.

On Saturday, that information was confirmed by the Prime Minister’s staff. The press conference is to be held at 8 p.m. on June 27.

Shortly after Armenian Times published its news about the press conference, a group of editors, primarily employed by pro-opposition or opposition-leaning media outlets, issued a statement declaring a boycott of the press conference and refusing to send questions. The group included the editors of the Armenian Democratic Liberal publications Azg of Armenia and Zartonk of Lebanon.

“The previous experience has proved that such ‘online contacts’ take place in a prepared scenario; only the questions from the pro-government media, Telegram channels, and bloggers are publicized during these events, who, apparently, agree in advance with the organizers of the event, and in the case of the questions by other media — they are either ignored, edited or distorted,” the statement reads.

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As of publication, over three dozen editors have added their names to the joint statement declaring the boycott.

In another statement, a small number of larger non-partisan media outlets, including Azatutyun, the Armenian service of RFE/RL, and CivilNet condemned the format of the press conference and reoccurring cases of questions that were submitted being edited or distorted.

“We deem this form of interaction with the media by the country’s ruler discriminatory, ineffective, and in contradiction with the core principles of democracy, transparency, and accountability,” the statement reads.

Hakob Karapetyan, the editor-in-chief of Armenian fact-checking platform Fact Investigation Platform and one of the initiators of the statement, told OC Media one of the reasons for initiating the statement was the “leak” of the information by the Armenian Times and a concern that the questions sent to the prime minister would risk being edited and distorted again.

“The Prime Minister considers the democratization of the country and the transparency of his government as one of the main achievements,” Karapetyan told OC Media. “We wanted to send a warning or a signal to them that such actions do not support the democratization of the country.”

Pashinyan has been holding online press conferences since 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemics as a reason for the new format instead of pre-covid and pre-war more often and open communication with the local media outlets.

However, media organizations have repeatedly complained that the questions they sent to the Prime Minister’s staff were either edited and distorted or not given to Pashinyan.

Prior to the conference, several pro-Pashinyan politicians criticized the media outlets that signed the two statements. Taron Chakhoyan, the deputy head of prime minister’s staff accused the pro-opposition and opposition-leaning media outlets of not being professional and serving the interest of those “seeking revanchism.”

 

 

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