April 13, 2007
ACNIS and NCI Monitor Pre-Election Media Coverage
Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), together with the National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI), today convened a policy roundtable to present the results of its monitoring project that focuses on media coverage in the run-up to the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12. The meeting brought together NGO representatives, leading analysts, policy specialists, and members of the press.
ACNIS director of research Stepan Safarian opened the conference with the reminder that, at the beginning of the year, a specialized monitoring group under the auspices of ACNIS had launched a four-month project to analyze local television and print media coverage specifically with respect to the forthcoming elections. “The results of the second monitoring have registered certain changes,” he said. “In some cases, those electronic media which tend to lean toward the pro-establishment and certain political forces have cut down their dosage of disrepute and negative portrayal of the challengers. In other cases, however, that technology has merely been fine-tuned and become less perceptible.”
The second monitoring, in Safarian’s words, likewise covered the country’s best-known television programs. The study also accounted for all information disseminated about the leaders of major political parties, the quality of the public opinion being formed about them, and the frequency of airtime.
The first speaker, ACNIS analyst Syuzanna Barseghian, presented the results for the monitoring of television newscasts. According to her study, Yerkir Media television led the way in news reports about the forthcoming parliamentary elections. She also mentioned that the ruling Republican Party was covered the most by nearly all television news bulletins. “It is worth mentioning that there is a tremendous difference between the television airtime allotted for this party and this bespeaks the fact that all television news programs have markedly advertised the party of power,” she said.
Stepan Safarian then presented the results of the monitoring of television programs and political talk shows. He stated that Kentron television was the leader in broadcasting programs devoted to the elections. He also added that the negative portrayal of the opposition resulted in the deepening of public skepticism toward attaining change through elections and the formation of the belief that there was no alternative to the current authorities. “We have frequently observed that, in the case of ruling parties, television programs have asked the interviewee to elaborate on the party platform. Opposition candidates, however, are met with a different line of questioning, very often being forced to explain why the opposition did not unite,” Safarian asserted.
The monitoring has illustrated yet again that certain electronic media serve the interests of specific political parties or pro-establishment forces. “The media remain a weapon at the hands of political powers, and are not a means for unbiased information and a true fourth estate. This situation cannot become a guarantee for free and fair elections,” the monitoring group concluded.
In her turn, ACNIS associate expert on human rights Zhanna Aleksanian presented the results for the monitoring of the pre-electoral cycle. The report included the actions, taken by the political parties, which run counter to the Electoral Code; the illegal acts committed by those state bodies whose job it is to conduct free and fair elections; and the criminal actions that cast a shadow on the election process. “These activities have not gone unnoticed by the international organizations and many countries, which in their statements call on Armenia ’s authorities to secure free and fair elections,” Aleksanian noted.
Participants in the ensuing discussion included Boris Navasardian, chairman of the Yerevan Press Club; Garegin Ghazarian of the Dashink Party; Edward Antinian, deputy chairman of the Liberal Progressive Party; Arsen Kharatian of the “Scientific Development” NGO; and various others. According to the roundtable participants, the results of the current monitoring are not likely to change in the few weeks before May 12.
Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2007, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.
For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ; or visit www.acnis.am