Football Federation of Armenia Restricts Work of Local Media

Armenia’s World Cup qualifier with Italy, which will take place in Yerevan on Oct. 12, has caused a real football “boom” (uproar) in Armenia.

Thanks to local news outlets, we in Armenia know nearly everything about the match — who will be watching, the approximate composition of our and the opponent’s team, various players’ opinions about this match, how much the match tickets cost, the condition of the turf on the playing field, and what the Italian players will be eating (since they brought their own chef with them to Armenia).

News outlets managed to inform fans even when it’s a good time to arrive for the match (the Football Federation of Armenia, for some reason, advises ticket holders to come two hours before). Interest is great also because after a long hiatus, finally a match will be taking place in Hrazdan Stadium, a stadium much loved by Armenian football fans, where FC Ararat secured its glorious victories in the 70s.

We know the details of the upcoming match from not only television and newspapers, but also social networking sites — especially Facebook, where regular updates are posted on the Armenian National Team’s official Facebook page. For example, we are informed who has become the Armenian team’s captain after Sargis Hovsepyan’s departure, as well as when the Italian team arrived in Armenia.

However, as commonly happens, this time too the “football fairytale” was not without an unpleasant surprise: According to replik.am [AM], the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) refused media accreditation for Sport De Facto magazine and Kentron TV. This news was also conveyed by Director of Kentron’s Political and News Programs Petros Ghazaryan on his Facebook page [AM]: “To our request to officially substantiate [their reason for refusing our accreditation], the FFA responded, that’s what we want.”

Ghazaryan further noted that Kentron TV was also permitted from attending neither the Armenian team’s press conference nor the team’s training sessions on the playing field that were open to other members of the press. Kentron TV was also not informed of UEFA President Michel Platini’s arrival. 

Sport De Facto, in turn, wrote on its Facebook page: “Today we found out that there’s no room for our two journalists in a stadium that can hold thousands — FFA refused our accreditation when the Italian team has officially agreed to give us exclusive interviews. Asked to explain, FFA provides no explanation whatsoever — they’ve simply refused and that’s it.”

It became known that representatives of other news outlets were also denied accreditation, including Xsport.am and the Public Radio program “Sport Crossroad”.

As reported by Xsport.am [AM], on Sept. 29, the FFA’s press service issued the media accreditation procedure for events organized by the FFA regarding matches in which Armenian national teams will be participating. 

“Written there was the procedure of how members of the press have to become accredited for covering football matches and events. In that 10-page document, […] the following two points caught my eye:

“4.3. The final decision to provide, as well as refuse accreditation rests exclusively with the FFA.

“4.4. The FFA is not obliged to provide explanations in case of providing, as well as refusing accreditation. 

“What’s the meaning of discrimination? Or perhaps some news outlets have the right to be deprived of the opportunity to fully cover the national team’s match?” writes Xsport.am founder, Public Radio program “Sport Crossroad” producer and host Aram Manukyan. 

It’s interesting that during these heated days of football, the FFA is working to reduce its contact with the press. FFA President Ruben Hayrapetyan shut down his official Facebook page back in July and till today (on the eve before the Armenia-Italy match) hasn’t reopened it. The FFA president explained he had opened his Facebook page prompted by the request of journalists and football fans, but “due to the lies, insults, and libel published by the media” decided to shut it down. 

Until then, he’d sometimes open, sometimes close his Facebook page.

Being insulted or offended by criticism in general or journalists personally is seen as a little bit strange. No one has yet won the war declared against the media. And hindering the work of the media definitely won’t help increase the FFA’s rating. 

It’s understandable that the Armenia-Italy match has caused great interest among the press and it’s hard to allocate space for everyone in the stadium, but the noted news outlets have always covered football news and currently likewise want to do their work. 

Especially when an exceptional sporting event, indeed, awaits us all.  

Tigran Hovhannisyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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