Armed Attack in Yerevan: Online Media was in Full Swing, TVs were silent
Media Center, July 19, Yerevan: The lack of timely and sufficient coverage of the armed attack by TV channels led to the deepening of the gap between the public and the governmenton the one hand, and the interested audience moved to the online media field on the other hand. Boris Navasardyan, Chairman of Yerevan Press Club, said this during the discussion on “How did the Arenian media cover the armed attack in Yerevan” at Media Center on July 19.

He said that on the day of the attack on the patrol service, television companies did not change their program policy and they did not give information about the incident during the first hours. "Although there was an acute need for media coverage. TV channels were oriented to the passive audience who spend time in front of TVs watching entertainment programs and soap operas. So, they did not change their program policy, although there was an acute need for an urgent and in-depth information about the event, "he said, adding that they could provide just a short official statement.

That is why the active audience moved to the online media field, which is a serious challenge for the media production of Armenia.

According to journalist Petros Ghazaryan, there are several reasons for TVs behavior and the caution of the first hours is justified. "First of all, TVs could not be as operative as websites. Besides, it was Sunday, one employee is not sufficient to communicate news from the scene like in case of websites. The whole system should work for televisions," he said, adding that the passivity of television was also due to avoiding mistakes in an emergency, because attackers called for rebellion. Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Ashot Melikyan considered this idea to be self-censorship, which is unacceptable from the perspective of freedom of speech.

Now, when there is no emergency, according to Ghazaryan, the media must be free to cover the events as they are. "On the attack day there was such a noise in social networks as if a revolution was carried out in Armenia, and the television gave the impression that the country is in summer vacation. The reality is, I think, somewhere in between," he added.

Even now, there are no large flows of information. "The problem is that neither the government nor the opposition supporters do not want to talk about the event. The opposition understands that there has been a deplorable event, but does not want to publicly condemn it, because they are afraid of the public reaction," he said. As a reply to the question why TV companies do not cover the opinion of the other side, such as the opinion of spokesman of the "Founding Parliament" Varuzhan Avetisyan, he said, "Journalists should be neutral, but when it comes to the violation of the constitutional order, calls for uprising, murder, I personally do not intend to broadcast a person’s opinion who makes anti-constitutional calls, it has nothing do with the freedom of speech.”

Ashot Melikyan said that now the government is responding to events indirectly, via the so-said "trolls," representing the ideas favorable for the government. "The problem is that we are dealing with a situation where it is difficult to consider these people terrorists. Terrorism has no homeland, and this is hard to say for these people that they are not patriotic. I think this is a desperate move, not a terrorism,” he said, adding that there were many television manipulations; the information was not updated quickly.

Ashot Melikyan also criticized the cases of obstructing the work of journalists, which according to him, has become a "chronic disease". In any extreme situation, law enforcement agencies are beginning to step up journalists together with activists. "This is unacceptable. The defiant attitude is offensive, it is even more outrageous that they are not allowed to work, this has become a chronic disease," Melikyan said.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

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