On Emergency Speech and Press Restrictions, Media Center interviewed Daniel Ioannisyan, Coordinator of the Union of Informed Citizens NGO, wondering whether the restrictions in the wording of the decision could lead to media censorship. According to Daniel Ioannisyan, the decision itself is censorship. “The first person to break the emergency regime was my good friend Hayk Gevorgyan. The government's state of emergency rules also prohibit the dissemination of unofficial information on coronavirus cases outside Armenia. In the parliament yesterday, Hayk Gevorgyan said that in his opinion, Turkey and other countries are lying about the number of cases of coronavirus. Now, if someone writes that the Russian authorities are lying, not 60 cases, but more, it actually turns out to be under censorship,” said Daniel Ioannisyan. According to him, it would be appropriate to ban the spread of panic-spreading false information about the spread of coronavirus in Armenia.
According to Daniel Ioannisyan, there is also the question of the credibility of official government information. “We need the public to trust this information, not to force the public to trust it. No one trusts mandatory information. Here are two examples: one since 2008, when censorship was introduced and all information banned, people disseminated misinformation via sms that there were 55 victims and the public trusted it because there was censorship. If there was no censorship, people would hear the information provided by independent media and know that there were no 55 victims. People believed in the apparently false information about the 55 victims because there was censorship. "
Daniel Ioannisyan has the same concern now. People will question the authenticity of the government's statements as there are no independent sources to confirm this information. Ioannisyan also recalled the escalation of the situation on the Tavush border during 2015. “The case reached the Noyemberyan shelling, there was no panic on the Armenian side, and it was on the Azerbaijani side. There are many serious analyzes that claim that this was due to the fact that there was no censorship on the Armenian side and there was in Azerbaijan. Censorship itself can be a cause for panic. You have to use this tool very carefully. " We inquired of Daniel Ioannisyan how accurate the reporters were before the state of emergency and how reliable the authorities were in disseminating information. “The authorities' denial of the rumors about making the building of the Monte Melkonian Military College a quarantine place is a vivid example of what not to do. The denial of the use of the college as a quarantine site made the government vulnerable to public trust, as it turned out that it would be used. " Ioannisyan emphasized that he did not notice that the authorities disseminate false information about the number of coronavirus cases in Armenia and their prevalence. And censorship is problematic in that sense.
Daniel Ioannisyan also touched upon the statement made by Mane Gevorgyan, the Spokesman of Prime Minister, at a press conference today in the Government office that the Ministry of Health had contacted the journalists working in Vayk. "We have given the lists, the contact has been confirmed, everyone has been inquired about their health, they have been asked about symptoms and it has been suggested that if they have the appropriate symptoms, they will go and undergo testing. Almost everyone, as far as I am aware, refused to do so,”. Meanwhile, Factor.am has reported that the statement of the Prime Minister's spokesman regarding the members of his shooting group is not true. According to Daniel Ioannisyan, the public administration system has incorrect information and also the Prime Minister's spokesman has received incorrect information. "Another example of how the government is doing the wrong steps, as a result of which there is no trust in the information they publish."
Daniel Ioannisyan expressed hope that these restrictions would not lead to arbitrary practices. "At the moment I am more concerned that the public will start to distrust the information provided by the authorities, for which the wording should be clarified at least in terms of legislative packages to be adopted by the National Assembly and for which the authorities should not disseminate incorrect information."
Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, touched upon the limitations of mass media publications by the state of emergency, noting that everything depends on how the provisions of the document will be applied. According to him, there should be some restrictions in the state of emergency, the measures that are planned are very logical. "In any case, this should not undermine the work of the media in that they are free to seek and publish information from other sources as well, provided that they should be more responsible for the work than they are on a daily basis, as any inaccurate information may cause unnecessary confusion. It is very important in this respect that the materials are based solely on verified information. According to Melikyan, if the journalist has obtained a fact of public importance, it may also receive official commentary on it, publish and obtain the fact, and official position. The CPFE president called on the government and the patrol group to show maximum tolerance, and the media more responsible.