Armenia June 2021 elections: a guide to media landscape
Analysis of pre-election media landscape in Armenia
A total of four blocs and 21 parties will participate in June 21 early parliamentary elections in Armenia. JAMnews analyzes media coverage and allegiances of various outlets during the pre-election period.
It is expected that early elections in Armenia will resolve the political crisis that began after the second Karabakh war when, immediately after Armenia’s defeat, the opposition demanded the resignation of the prime minister. In turn, Nikol Pashinyan stated that he was elected by the will of all residents of the country and would not leave at the request of the opposition. As a result, Pashinyan agreed with the opposition represented in parliament to hold early elections and, on April 25, announced his resignation to begin the procedure for dissolving parliament.
According to experts, the following political forces are likely to enter parliament:
- Party “Civil Contract”
- Block “Armenia”
- Block “I have the honor”
- Prosperous Armenia Party
- Party “Enlightened Armenia”
- Armenian National Congress Party.
Here are the media resources of these top six contenders for parliamentary seats.
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Family of the acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan owns the Haykakan Zhamanak daily newspaper and the Armtimes.com website, both of which are run by the same editorial board and Pashinyan’s wife Anna Hakobyan is currently the editor-in-chief of the Armtimes.com.
Another media outlet belonging to this political force is the Free news TV company, which was created in 2020 and received a broadcasting license in Yerevan in 2021. The director of this TV company and the website with the same name is the wife of Alen Simonyan, the vice-speaker of the National Assembly and a member of the Civil Contract party.
Until 2018, Alen Simonyan was also the chief editor of Ararat magazine and araratnews.am website. This website actively covers the election campaign of Nikol Pashinyan.
The Armenpress state news agency and the Public Television of Armenia are also associated with the current government. These two media outlets are funded from the state budget and have always been associated with the current government.
This political bloc was created with the aim of participating in the elections and the second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, and two parties – ARF Dashnaktsutyun and Reviving Armenia were united in it.
The name of Robert Kocharyan, who heads the bloc’s electoral list, is associated with Channel 5 TV company, whose legal address is Sharq LLC.
Since 2018, Armen Tavadyan, one of Robert Kocharian’s most active supporters, has been the owner of the TV company. From time to time various sources report that the real owner of Channel 5 is Robert Kocharian. The content of the programs broadcasting on the channel, including the Armat project of the singer Sirusho, Kocharyan’s daughter-in-law, reinforce these suspicions.
Channel 5 often shows documentaries about Kocharyan, covering the trial against him, and is now consistently presenting his election campaign.
Robert Kocharian was accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in connection with the events of March 1, 2008, when 10 people were killed during the dispersal of a demonstration of protesters who did not agree with the results of the presidential elections. In April 2021, the court ruled to discontinue the criminal case against him.
The website of Yerevan Today – Media Plus LLC is also associated with Kocharian. Despite his assurances of the website’s editor-in-chief Sevak Hakobyan of no allegiances with Kocharian, the content of the site confirms this information. The site is flooded with reports about the Armenia bloc, in particular, about Kocharian’s speeches and his election campaign.
The non-governmental organization Public Diplomacy belongs to Elizabeth Petrosyan, the wife of Vaha Hakobyan, the former head of the Syunik region, a member of the same bloc, as well as the former deputy director of Public Radio Lika Tumanyan. One of the organization’s projects is the online TV company PARA TV.
All meetings and activities of the Armenia bloc are actively covered on the Facebook page of this TV company.
Yerkir Media TV company was founded by Usaber CJSC and it openly supports the Dashnaktsutyun party. The most popular political commentator on this TV channel is Gegham Manukyan, a member of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun, number 13 of the Armenia bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian.
This TV channel and the website of the same name fully cover the election campaign of the Armenia bloc, which includes the Dashnaktsutyun party.
I Have the Honor bloc
This political bloc was created after the uniting of the Republican Party of Armenia and the Rodina Party. The head of the RPA is another (third) ex-president of Armenia – Serzh Sargsyan. However, the only candidate for the bloc is the head of the Rodina party, the former head of the National Security Service, Artur Vanetsyan.
This political union also has a lot of media resources of its own.
Since 2019, shares of ArmNews TV company have been owned by Karjak Media company, founded by former deputies of the RPA faction in the 6th convocation of the People’s Assembly Karen Bekaryan, Ara Saghatelyan, Samvel Farmanyan and Mihran Hakobyan.
100% of the shares of the Armenia TV company belong to the family of Artur Janibekyan, the founder of the Russian Comedy Club Production company. Artur Janibekyan is a close friend of Mikael Minasyan, son-in-law of the third president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan.
Taguhi Tovmasyan, candidate #6 from the I Have the Honor bloc, announced her withdrawal from the ruling My Step faction after the war on November 16, 2020. Tovmasyan is the founder and the head of the Editorial office of the newspaper Zhokhovurd LLC news holding. Before being elected to parliament, she was the chief editor of the Zhokhovurd newspaper and the online resource ArmLur.am.
This party has quite large financial resources and cooperates with various news sites.
Kentron TV channel is the largest media resource owned by the leader of the Prosperous Armenia party Gagik Tsarukyan who openly supports the leader of Prosperous Armenia Gagik Tsarukyan.
Former members of Prosperous Armenia Naira Zohrabyan and Iveta Tonoyan, current MPs of the Prosperous Armenia party, have both once worked as journalists for this TV channel. The Special Programs section on the TV company’s website is dedicated entirely to Gagik Tsarukyan and the Prosperous Armenia party.
The opposition Enlightened Armenia party has no media resources – TV companies, news sites or newspapers. The party actively promotes its activities on social media, especially on Facebook. Party members give interviews to other media outlets, participate in debates and discussions.
The leader of the Enlightened Armenia Edmon Marukyan, stated that they are the only parliamentary force in the history of Armenia that does not have media resources of its own. However, as the Fact Checking Platform later found out, there were several more political forces in the history of Armenia that did not own any media outlets.
Armenian National Congress
The party is headed by the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan. This party today no longer has the resources that it used to have while being in power. In recent years, the ilur.am news website and the Chorord Ishkhanutiun newspaper (fourth estate) with the news resource of the same name 4rd.am have been considered the mouthpiece of the party.
Exclusive rights to publish author’s articles by Levon Ter-Petrosyan belong to these platforms.
The media in Armenia during the pre-election period is to a large extent concentrated on two poles – pro-opposition and pro-government. All opposition forces that have entered the pre-election race are united by one idea – preventing the acting Prime Minister and his party from getting re-elected.