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October 25, 2007

ACNIS Focuses on Mass Media

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened today a policy discussion in order thoroughly to look at the media and their impact on the political developments in Armenia. The meeting brought together media and public relations experts from political parties, leading analysts, public and political figures, and media representatives.

ACNIS research coordinator Syuzanna Barseghian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “As numerous sociological polls show, the mass media have great bearing on public opinion,” she said. “Nonetheless, do they allow the society to draw a true picture of the political events, to reach sound decisions, and to make mindful choices?” Barseghian also stated that in line with the monitoring being conducted by ACNIS, the Armenian media are not providing the informational playing field necessary for the making of the right selection.

In his intervention, Artak Zakarian of the Republican Party explored the correlation between the media and the political forces. He pointed to the several degrees of such relations and mentioned that the commentaries made, and the assessments given, to form public opinion do not always depict the actual reality. Moreover, in Zakarian’s view, the media disregard numerous key sociopolitical matters while several print and electronic reviews exceed the allowable limits of subjectivity. “Certainly, this is unacceptable since one of the media’s primary tasks is to guarantee the involvement, by a large cross-section of the people, in the formation of a democratic and civil society,” Zakarian noted.

The next speaker, Hovsep Khurshudian of the Heritage Party, examined the “neo-Bolshevik” ideology which seems to be adopted by members of the Armenian press and stated that the Armenian media are polarized and serve the interests of political forces. In Khurshudian’s words, the greater part of the local media “speaks” as the voice of political parties and therefore the absolute majority of the mass media really functions as a propaganda machine. “In comparison with the print media of democratic countries, most Armenian press demonstrates yellow journalism and this adversely affects the level of societal trust toward news media,” Khurshudian asserted. He also added that new and fresh ideas, which are indispensable for political development and social progress, are inhibited in Armenia and sometimes are completely blocked by the censorship exercised, and the instructions given, by the upper echelons of power.

In his turn, Tatul Hakobian of Armenian public radio spoke about the mass media’s growing role in the political processes and noted that one of the avenues for raising the media’s effectiveness is to expand news coverage. “Despite some radical manifestations, the media in general are able to secure a diversity of opinion. The electronic media, which sadly are still inaccessible for many public and political figures, are becoming more widespread,” Hakobian maintained. Reflecting on the television boycott of various press clubs, he stated that this relates to internal political processes, mentioning that the coverage of the press briefings of several opposition members are not very much to the liking of certain officials and that this is the main reason for the administrative plan of shutting these clubs down.

The policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of views and policy recommendations among Susanna Abrahamian of the Orinats Yerkir Party; chairman Mikael Danielian of the Armenian Helsinki Association; Artak Zeinalian of the Republic Party; publicist Artsrun Pepanian; ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian; Anna Israelian of the Aravot daily; political scientist Edward Antinian; Anzhela Tovmasian of the “Hayeli” Press Club; Ruzan Khachaturian from the People’s Party; Mesrop Harutiunian of the Yerevan Press Club; Petros Ghazarian of Kentron television; Hakob Yumushadian of the Self-Determination Union; and several others.

In the shared opinion of many roundtable participants, when covering political developments the vast majority of the media is making a selection which is impermissible and, as argued by the discussants, the actions by the players in this field do not guarantee the media’s constitutionally-affixed mission of providing accurate information by means of objective coverage of the news, facts, and events.

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 root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.


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