#ElectricYerevan: What Can Be Fixed in News and Information

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Much has already been written about the demonstrations against the electricity fare hike and their coverage. But let us consider what was interfering and could be improved in terms of coverage.

The international press and social media attention on Baghramyan Avenue was great and continues to remain so. The attention was so great that some Azeri social media users are even complaining that as a result of this latest conspiracy by Armenians, the world’s attention was diverted from the Baku 2015 European Games to Yerevan.

While the information coming out from Yerevan and Armenia, in general, at some times was lacking for a few reasons:

(a) the Ukrainian and especially Russian propaganda mechanisms had assumed greater vigor. Russian propaganda claims about American ears on the ground in Armenia were spread on Twitter through spambots trying to hijack the #ElectricYerevan hashtag, which they succeeded in doing from time to time. 

(b) Objective journalism from Armenia in English and Russian in the first few days was weak, since our news outlets cater to the domestic market. This was later rectified. In addition, objective foreign including Russian journalists began reporting at the scene in Yerevan.

(c) Live streaming, which several local Armenian news outlets provide, was blocked in many countries — many can’t view them outside the country. Editors have to think about this.

CISrME1WoAAv02p.pngSpambots spreading Russian propaganda on Twitter

I think, as well, in terms of organizing the demonstration, there was a need to establish an information center — in order to quickly receive and impart information on not only organizing, but also political decisions. 

The need for this was apparent even on Baghramyan Avenue, where the distribution of people and the lack of powerful sound equipment complicated communication between the two sides. Furthermore, in such cases, the information going out must be available to all, and not through the journalists who appeared there at that moment. 

The other issue is very difficult to discuss in Armenia even among journalists. This is the matter of news outlets’ impartiality. Obviously, in such a nationwide movement, it’s hard for journalists not to be overtaken by emotion. 

But when the situation escalates, particularly when it becomes difficult to grasp (for example, when demonstrators are divided into two groups and one group goes to Liberty Square), apart from its timely reporting, a news outlet’s neutral position also becomes important for news consumers. 

When a journalist begins to confuse facts with comments and opinions, he also misleads his audience. I believe there were news outlets on the night of June 28–29 that began to lead their audience one way or another — willingly or not.

Anyway, since we now are entering a more, so to speak, diversified phase of the movement, important for both local Armenian and foreign audiences is information that not only is timely, but also provides analysis and opinion.

Samvel Martirosyan

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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