In recent years, online news media outlets have been catching up to traditional news outlets in Iran's Armenian community.
Iranahayer.com, which launched in 2008, was the first site publishing news in Armenian for Iran's Armenian community of 70–80,000. The site was created in Tehran, but today it operates out of Yerevan, since the website's editor Rubik Minasyan made the move to Armenia. Iranahayer.com, however, also has a staffer in Tehran.
Iranahayer.com tries to ensure alternative news in the community's one-sided news industry, says Minasyan.
"In the community, if power is in the hands of political parties, they also control the news outlets — as is the case in Tehran. This website was created as an alternative to those news outlets," he says.
The community was initially skeptical about the site. "There were people who said that we were being financed by special bodies in Armenia, but over time such talk was dispelled," Minasyan says.
The news site covers important events and issues in the community as well as in Armenia. The articles are mainly official news sent from the primacies of Tehran and Tabriz or from individual people.
"Since there isn't any [newsworthy] activity going on in the community right now, we don't feel the need for a correspondent, but there is someone who works on a story when needed," says the site's editor.
The reporters of oratert.com (also run by Rubik Minasyan) assist in compiling the news for iranahayer.com's Armenia section. Of the community papers, there is also cooperation with the weeklies Arax and Huys.
There is much republished content on the site. "We select news items that would interest the community and republish them on iranahayer.com," says Minasyan.
Content on the site is only available in Armenian. The community content uses classical spelling, while not community-specific content uses modern spelling. The Persian version of the site was blocked as a result of pressure from Iran's pan-Turkish community and is not accessible in Iran.
Restrictions on freedom of speech in Iran don't affect the site's activities, since, according to site's editor, the site doesn't address issues that might be red flags for the Iranian government. "And we don't see the point of raising [those issues] since there are already those who do. And since we publish in Armenian and we're community-specific, the state isn't really concerned with the matter of control," he adds.
Another site providing alternative news to the Iranian-Armenian community is hamaynk.com.
"In our community, the news, for the most part, was one-sided; that is, published in the community was only the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's official paper Aliq, which is why it was necessary that other views were also heard. It was necessary for the members of our community to become familiar with events in Armenia, which meant offering news from a non-partisan perspective," says the person responsible for the site, Rubik Sardaryan.
Hamaynk.com also aims to provide information about the Armenian Genocide and other Armenian-related matters to Persian and Azerbaijani communities, as well as Persian-speaking readers from different countries — in Farsi. The site's Persian-language content differs from its Armenian-language content.
Since the site doesn't have a particular sponsor and expenses are mainly covered by those operating it, it also doesn't have in-house staff.
"Our site is a labor of love and about 10 volunteers work on it together. We also have supporters and friends of the site who sometimes contribute articles. In Armenia, we also have some friends who provide different news items, " says Sardaryan.
Several unique characteristics have to be taken into consideration when gathering and publishing news stories in the Iranian-Armenian community: the existence of different unions and Armenian activists having different approaches and different ideas, the existence of more than 20 million Iranian-Azerbaijanis living in Iran, the difference in religion, and the need to be respectful toward Islam, as well as being aware of and protecting the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"Criticism of the non-objective and unjust anti-Iranian policies of the US and European countries and the [Armenian] Diaspora's policy of supporting and standing behind the homeland are also among these particularities," he says.
On hamaynk.com there are also a great many articles republished from news outlets based in Armenia. Rubik Sardaryan says that having special correspondents or staff members to cover events in Armenia is meaningless. But even if they wanted to, he says, they don't have the funds.
"However, we pay attention to the Iranian-Armenian community's issues, which we mostly cover with our own efforts — we write original pieces about them," says Sardaryan.
The website, operating in Iran, hasn't come across any obstacles in restricting freedom of speech, since it only raises subjects related to the Iranian-Armenian community.