On June 1, in Stepanakert, the brawl that broke out between a few citizens and employees of the National Security Service on domestic soils, became a cause for protests.
The first incident that followed for coverage was not local news, rather individuals who were trying to present what is happening using short videos, posts and photos.
During the protest, which lasted three days, protesters closed off one of the central streets in Stepanakert and demanded the resignation of the heads of power structures (with the exception of the army).
This extraordinary event for Artsakh made officials search for ways to calm down protesters and negotiate with them.
This situation was unusual for Artsakh, protests were held, the President accepted representatives of the council which was coordinating the rallies in his residence, and the National Assembly convened an extraordinary sitting, which could be viewed directly by RFE/RL “Azatutyun.”
Before the journalists would have reached Artsakh from Armenia, locals, using social media, were already covering the ongoing events.
Due to the poor quality of the internet, it was not possible to broadcast live: this was confirmed by both journalists and individuals.
Late in the evening on June 1, freelance journalist Hayk Ghazaryan, having read Tigran Grigoryan’s facebook post, thought that nothing special would happen the next day, since, according to him, the demands were blurry.
However, in the morning he woke up from the sound of cars (he lives on Azatamartikneri street) and realized, that things were heated.
He hurried to the rally site, the bus station, when he saw that he was getting a lot of questions on Facebook, regarding what is happening in reality.
“I realized that there is a demand for information. There were no news outlets. When I reached the place of the demonstration, the State Minister, the Secretary of Security, the President of the Union of Freedom Fighters were all there. In a word, it was heated. At first, they would say that I should not videotape it, but I published the video, which then received a great deal of reactions,” says Hayk.
Since the internet connection was bad, Hayk had to go home several times, in order to post or publish something.
Later, he asked for the Wi-Fi password from one of the residents who lived in the vicinity of the demonstrations, and began to record live broadcasts from the scene.
“I have tried to play the role of a cameraman and transfer what was going on. As to how well I succeeded, I don’t know. My followers have been increasing during these days, I have received numerous applications from companies, companies from Armenian media have been writing asking for permission to use my publications. I have only done a separate interview with “Hetq,” says Hayk.
The events in Stepanakert have had their own hashtag in social media: #ԵկՎակզալ (Come to the railway station).
Another freelance reporter from Stepanakert, Marut Vanyan, actively used Instagram and Facebook, despite having come across complications.
“The reason is primarily due to having no access to the internet. If you are preparing a video, you have to record it, take it to the office, edit it, write a text… But it’s not clear as to when that will be uploaded to YouTube. When events are rapidly developing, and you are busy publishing your materials, you are missing out on the opportunity to shoot another important piece of material.”
Marut says that during those days, he received numerous calls from Armenia and the Diaspora. The Armenian media wanted comments. Many were also writing on Facebook a lot.
By the suggestion of two Armenian news outlets, he covered the events.
He learned about the closed streets and the dissatisfaction presented to the officials from a friend. He went and saw the crowd that had gathered.
“If anything like that was to happen in Yerevan, in an instant at least the same number of journalists would be gathered at the scene to find out what was going on, even if it were at night. However that morning, I didn’t see any local news representative. The demonstrators were taking videos with their mobile phones. After some clarifications, I posted a few photos on Facebook, which naturally started to spark an interest in people who were not indifferent, people (especially those outside of Artsakh) wanted to know the details,” says Marut.
The biggest obstacle for him was the quality of the internet.
“However strange it may seem, I didn’t even see any Facebook posts from the protest organizers, although, logic would imply that they ought to have been the most active people on the internet, with their competent, well-balanced, understandable posts. The organizers themselves ought to keep people aware of their agenda and so on.”
Marut was convinced, that no matter how many internet users try to convey the real picture, professional journalism is a necessity.
Local media were unable to cover in the way that they did in Armenia, and the Armenian media came to Stepanakert only on the second or third day.
“The work of local media was lacking. I simply wasn’t physically able to manage answering peoples numerous questions and Facebook messages. I think that this proves the failure of local media, otherwise people would not ask me what was going on in Artsakh, rather they would enter the webpage of, for example, Artsakh Public Television, and would follow live broadcasts,” says Marut.
Both Marut Vanyan and Hayk Ghazaryan tried to present the events as soon as possible and with accurate information via their posts.