In anticipation of the December 9 parliamentary elections, a number of Armenian media have agreed to work equally and fairly according to the rules of the game. A number of republican and regional coverage media have signed a memorandum on covering the snap elections.
They have agreed to adhere to the ethical principles and follow the procedure for providing free and paid airtime for pre-election campaigns.
This written agreement was reached at a meeting between the Media Ethics Observation Authority and supporting media organizations.
During the elections these media outlets should not disguise information about parties, alliances and candidates as not being political advertisements in their publications.
The memorandum was signed by 168 Zham, Lragir.am, Sut.am, Aravot, Lori Marz newspaper, Lwri, Alt, Hrazdan TV and a number of other media outlets.
“Such a memorandum was signed during the 1996 elections, after which no such agreement document or even conversations about a general agreement was ever made,” said Mesrop Harutyunyan, Coordinator of the Media Ethics Observatory.
According to him, during the previous elections, while the media maintained the demands of airtime coverage, they did however allow numerous ethical violations.
The chairman of the Union of Journalists, Editor-in-Chief of 168 Zham, Satik Seyranyan, believes that the signing of the memorandum is important, but it is not enough and can create issues during practical use.
“Journalists and professional media who have been working responsibly up till signing this document, must always maintain ethical norms during the elections. There were, of course, new points in the memorandum, but in general they are kind wishes. I doubt that they can be fully preserved in such conditions, the deviations will objectively occur,” said Satik Seyranyan.
In her opinion, ethical rules will not be completely followed during the course covering the elections.
From the Regional TV channel Alt is prepared to follow all those points under which it has signed. Director of the TV Company, Khachik Danielyan says that it had not been streamlined in the past and that there were no legal consequences, therefore nothing was prohibited.
Now there is a need to be more responsible, as, according to Danielyan, all the violations will be recorded during the monitoring process.
Mesrop Harutyunyan, referring to the essential points says, “The media broadcasters who signed this memorandum will abstain from supporting any particular candidate or party, and any intentions either for print or online media will be announced clearly in advance.”
The media, which has signed the document, will limit the dissemination of information about non-political, i.e. professional activities or official duties of party politicians as much as possible, unless such information is of public importance.
In the case of breaching the points of the memorandum the observer body will discuss the compliance and behavior of the media and journalists and reach a conclusion.
The memorandum is open to be signed by other media outlets.
Photograph by Gagik Aghbalyan