How did top Armenian outlets cover opposition and government rallies
Last month, the opposition and the government authorities simultaneously held several large-scale rallies in Armenia. The first one was held on February 25, when the General Staff of the Armed Forces demanded the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan, and the next one was organized on March 1. Both sides used the rallies to demonstrate a large army of their supporters, and both received varying coverage of Armenia’s most prominent online media outlets.
JAMNews assed the neutrality of the reports of three online publications with the highest traffic: 1lurer.am, 168.am and azatutyun.am.
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1lurer.am is the website of the state-funded Public Television. On the eve of March 1, on his Facebook page, announced the organization of a rally and called on citizens to join it.
This appeal was broadcasted many times on the First Channel (Public Television), then the recording of the broadcasts appeared on the website. The rally itself and the subsequent march were broadcasted live on Public Television from start to finish, however, Public Television also reported live from the opposition rally held on Baghramyan Avenue.
In the evening, approximately 17 minutes of the channel’s news segment were devoted to Pashinyan’s rally and his speech.
On the other hand, the coverage of the opposition Movement to Save the Motherland rally only received approximately 5 minutes of air time, and, by and large, was presented by a reporter’s commentary, and not by a separate video sequence.
As soon as Pashinyan appeared in public, the rally taking place on Republic Square was broadcasted continuously, until the end of the Prime Minister’s speech and the march of the protesters that followed it. However, both the march of Pashinyan supporters and the opposition rally at Baghramyan Avenue were aired simultaneously.
Pashinyan’s rally was also broadcasted on Public TV using drone footage.
In addition to TV broadcasts and live broadcasts, 1lurer.am published separate episodes of Pashinyan’s speeches and interviews with the protesters.
168.am covered the rally of the authorities, broadcasting live from the Prime Minister’s Facebook page. Prior to that, the site had posted video materials with two different foreshortenings illustrating the situation in Republic Square before the march had started. Special attention was paid to snipers who were there to ensure the safety of the Prime Minister.
In addition, excerpts from the Prime Minister’s speech were published, and some of his quotes were changed.
Here is one such quote.
The thoughts outlined here were voiced at different times during the Pashinyan’s speech, but were later combined and presented in the form of a complete phrase: “We made all possible mistakes, but we do not intend to give up, we will never give up”.
In this case, Pashinyan does not say “There should be an alternative of transition to a semi-presidential form of government “, as it is written on the website, and instead says: ” The transition to a semi-presidential form of government should be one of the possible options “.
When covering the rally organized by the authorities, 168.am often cited Mediaport Telegram channel.
It should be noted that 168.am has long been present in the Armenian media environment, as it was first launched in 2006, while Mediaport was created immediately after the 44-day war in Karabakh, on November 11, 2020. Most often, this resource publishes inaccurate information. Below is an example of a post that first appeared on this channel, and then on 168.am.
168.am writes, with a reference to Mediaport that in one of the administrative districts of Yerevan people are offered money to participate in Nikol Pashinyan’s rally, although the attached video does not showcase that.
Later, the administrative region in question reported that the video shows the process of providing assistance to low-income families, and it is carried out by the UN World Food Program.
With a reference to Dejavu telegram channel, the website 168.am also published audio recordings concerning the transportation of people from the regions to Yerevan to participate in the rally of the government authorities. Many media resources distributed these recordings, and the authenticity of one of them was confirmed by Deputy Mayor of Echmiadzin Arsen Petrosyan.
Journalists at 168.am report on people traveling from the Lori region to Yerevan to attend the rally.
When covering the opposition rally 168.am described it as crowded. As for the pro-government rally, the website reported, once again citing Mediaport that “there were more police than ordinary people at Pashinyan’s march,” and showed a short video in which the citizens were accompanied by police officers. However, the video footage does not show the participants of the rally and there is no way to estimate the number of police officers and citizens who attended the pro-Pashinyan march.
1lurer.am uses a different picture:
168.am started to cover the opposition rally from the moment when representatives of the opposition Movement to Save the Motherland gathered near the Church of St. Anne in Yerevan to notify citizens about the upcoming rally. This live broadcast lasted over an hour. The opposition rally under the slogan “Nation, Army, Victory” was also covered via a live broadcast that lasted 3 hours 23 minutes on 168.am website.
In the coverage of the opposition rally, phrases such as “the square is full of people”, “rally of thousands “, “Baghramyan Avenue flooded with lights ” were often used by 168.am.
When covering the opposition protest, 168.am stated that many of those who were forcibly brought to the rally of Pashinyan from the regions and the capital, ended up joining the opposition rally. However, neither the corresponding video material , nor the photos could confirm this. Unlike 1lurer.am, 168.am covered an opposition rally from the air, thus presenting a more accurate picture of the number of people gathered there.
In addition to live broadcasts, 168.am also published individual speeches Vazgen Manukyan , Ishkhan Saghatelyan , Yuri Khachaturov , Seyran Ohanyan and other persons who spoke at the opposition rally.
During its morning broadcasts, Radio Azatutyun (Radio Liberty) was airing Nikol Pashinyan’s speech in which he called on people to gather in Republic Square on March 1 and, later in the afternoon, the outled addressed both the opposition and government authorities’ rallies.
During the evening broadcast at 18:00, correspondents of Radio Azatutyun also briefly reported live from both rallies.
During the live broadcast, Radio Azatutyun also showed the marches of both sides simalteneously.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that Nikol Pashinyan’s speech was broadcasted on its own, and, in addition, the rally of the authorities was fully retransmitted on Radio Azatutyun YouTube channel.
During the main news bulletin, the overall coverage of both rallies was presented.
A reporter from Radio Azatutyun visited the Lori region, from where a dozen buses were carrying people to Yerevan to participate in a rally organized by the authorities. According to these people, they took part in the rallies held by both the current and the previous government.
The outlet also covered the accusations of the authorities abusing its administrative resources and presented the position of both the authorities and the opposition on this matter.
In general, it is possible to conclude some of the most viewed media outlets in Armenia provided an unbalanced coverage of the rallies. Some resorted to manipulative methods to emphasize a large or, conversely, a small number of participants in the rallies of one side or another, and not all of the media outlets addressed the accusation over the abuse of administrative resources and the movement of civil servants to Yerevan from the regions.
Considering the fact that early parliamentary elections are scheduled for summer and a tough election campaign will precede it, balanced coverage of the political situation is becoming a particularly urgent and important matter.