In the conditions of the coronavirus epidemic, one can find reliable, trustworthy or false and manipulative materials on the topic of COVID-19 in the Armenian media.
We have tried to find out where Armenian 24/hour news rating sites get their sources when covering the coronavirus. We have only considered materials related to other countries or translations from non-Armenian media.
We have singled out analytical, expert materials dealing with events having to do with the coronavirus or which is related to its repercussions for a period of one week, from May 8 to 14.
We have researched 5 websites according to the rating of similarweb.com website. These are 1in.am, news.am, tert.am, lurer.com, armeniasputnik.am websites.
Within a week, 1in.am published 185 articles on the coronavirus and related topics (excluding Armenian news).
Active links are only available in the case of 3 articles. One of them has an active link to the mentioned material, one to the source site, and in case of the third one, the Age periodical is brought as the source with an active link, but that link leads to the website gazeta.ru, where it is mentioned that the page was not found.
In the case of 11 publications, there is no mention of any source, announcement or author.
A majority of the materials are with vague references: meetings, press conferences, research centers, etc.
In the case of 47, the sources are state structures, research centers, announcements.
Often the references to these sources are very general. For example, “according to the data centers of the coronavirus research center” or “according to statistical data.” The names of the centers are not presented at all.
These are mainly materials related to various statistical data: daily updates for individual countries, coronavirus indicators in the world, or tests, announcements by scientists, media data, which are again without clear links.
The World Health Organization (WHO) data is often cited as a source, but in almost all materials they are either without active links or are not taken directly from that source but are mediated by other media.
It is difficult to verify the authenticity of many materials, as there is no citation to both the primary and secondary sources. One such article, for example, writes that the WHO representative stated the timing of the creation and production of the coronavirus vaccine. However, when we read the material, we see that it is not taken from any official source of the WTO. The article, as mentioned, is by Ria Novosti, which in turn refers to the broadcast of Россия 24 TV channel, during which the representative of the World Health Organization Melita Voinovich spoke. To verify the authenticity of the material, you must first go through the media, find the publications, and then find out who Melita Voinovich is and whether she said such a thing or not.
Another similar article is entitled “How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces according to the WHO?”
The source of the material is Ria Novosti, who refers to the representative of the World Health Organization Margaret Harris, who, according to the material, makes a claim, citing the latest data of the research. However, the research does not specify the source of the data.
When searching on the Ria Novosti website ria.ru, there is a material with the mentioned date and topic, which, however, has a different title and the second part of the material published on 1in.am is missing from the material.
When translating the title of this article into Russian, then searching the Internet, you will discover another article on lenta.ru. Both the title and the text of the article, unlike the ria.ru article, repeat the same as the version posted on the Armenian website.
It is obvious that 1-in.am translated its material from lenta.ru, literally quoting this section “Michael Ryan, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Situations Program, spoke about the results. His words are quoted by RIA Novosti,” and since the Armenian media did not mention lenta.ru as its source, the impression is that the material was translated from Ria Novosti.
The article titled “Chinese scientist named the most dangerous feature of COVID-19″ is mediated not by one, but by two Russian websites. The most dangerous feature of the new type of coronavirus is high infectivity, said Chinese surgeon Professor Zhou Nanshan. This was reported by RIA Novosti,” said the article, which, as we discovered, was translated not from RIA Novosti but from the gazeta.ru material which had gotten the information from the RIA Novosti website. There is only an active link in the RIA Novosti material, but it is not the link to the specific material, rather to the general website.
In the case of News.am, we have considered the general news and the health department. In one week, 198 articles regarding the coronavirus were published in these two sections.
In the health department (med.news.am) there are often theses about the coronavirus and the opinions of experts. In these materials, instead of sources of information, sometimes there are general references to the words of scientists, research, research centers, etc.
For example, in the article entitled “Is social isolation useful in the fight against coronavirus?” There is no source at all. Speaking of the impact of isolation on the spread of coronavirus, the claims are attributed to an uncertain source, American scientists. It is not clear what the scientists are talking about or where their opinion is published.
There are a number of articles in which the source is the new work of researchers from Melbourne’s Origen and La Trobe University, the study by scientists at the University of Jinnah Medical University, etc., and there is no reference to the media or publication.
As in the case of 1in.am, here too, there are frequent publications that refer to reputable websites or research, which, as it turns out, are translated through the mediation of Russian websites. The mechanism is the same as mentioned above.
57 articles on coronavirus have been published on Lurer.com in one week. The materials of the site are mainly without active links. Only in the case of two materials are there active links, one to the publication, the other to a general site. In all other cases, the sources are missing or are mentioned without an active link.
Often only the title of the material indicates the site from which the media took the information.
In the case of “It’s now known which is the most dangerous place in the house where it is possible to be infected with coronavirus,” for example, the title refers to “Ria Novosti” as a source, and the text of the article suggests that “elevators and pillars in residential buildings are the places where there is the greatest possibility of being infected with the coronavirus.”
As the author of the quote, the publication vaguely states, “the biologist explained,” but there is no mention of who the biologist was, from where, under what circumstances or on what expert grounds he made such a conclusion. It turns out that the publication of the Ria.ru website, from which the material was probably translated, had been translated from another Russian source.
In another article, there is neither a source media at all nor a reference to research. It is only mentioned that “Polish scientists have developed the probability of death in the case of being infected with the coronavirus” and the name of the scientist is mentioned once with the following wording, “Peter Bandosch, chief computer engineer and candidate of medical sciences, said.” The impression is that the mentioned scientist gave this information to the lurer.com editorial office.
As mentioned above, Russian sources often translate expert materials related to the coronavirus from non-Russian reputable media or research websites, but in some sections not completely. Armenian media outlets do not take these materials from sources but from the Russian websites.
For example, the article “It Is Known How To Reduce the Death Rates from the Coronavirus by Half” talks about coronavirus mortality and vitamin D deficiency. The title refers to the source: Medical Xpress, there is no active link
While searching for this material on the Internet, we find the Russian version on the ria.ru website, where the source is mentioned with an active link. The Armenian website obviously took the information from the Russian website, although it did not make a reference. Even the main photo is from the Russian website, while the original publication is with another photo.
According to the source, “Vitamin D appears to play a role in COVID-19 mortality rates,” but the Russian media relied on one hint in the research text. “Our analysis shows that it might be as high as cutting the mortality rate in half” and entitled it, it is known how to reduce the death rates from the coronavirus by half.
The article “It Is Known How To Reduce the Death Rates from the Coronavirus by Half” is published in the same way as ria.ru in the next media outlet we observed, on the armeniasputnik.am website. However, here you can find an active link to Ria Novosti’s publication.
Compared to other media outlets, Armeniasputnik.am had the least number of articles on the topic of coronavirus per week, 28 articles.
This site uses the same approach as in the media mentioned above. Some of the materials are mediated by the Russian media. Usually, the source material in the source is more extensive and only a few basic phrases are translated on the Russian websites, thanks to which the details are sometimes ignored and left out.
Tert.am is the richest of our media outlets with links. Of the 191 materials published on the topic of the coronavirus in a week, 26 are without active reference materials, some of which are news about Turkey and Azerbaijan, others are incidental materials or statistical information.
On the website, compared to others, there are fewer expert/scientific materials and theses.
Once again, there are a large number of mediated translations here. The difference between the other sites is that the original source and the name of the mediating media are mainly mentioned, from which the publication was translated, with an active reference to both sources. However, this does not change the approach, because in this case, too, materials that are repeating the content of Russian media appear in the Armenian media.
The content on the news sites barely differs from each other as a result of using shared sources. Often in different Armenian media, there are repetitive materials, in one case the source may be mentioned, and in the other case not. But it does not affect the publications in terms of content.
Thus, the most common sources of all 5 media outlets studied are Russian, in 4 cases Ria Novosti and in one TASS Russian news agency.
In the case of both media outlets, there are almost no active links to original websites or materials (1in.am, lurer.com). In one case, only 32 of the 198 articles have active links to websites or materials (news.am). In the other case, out of 191, only 26 do not have active links (tert.am), and in the case of armeniasputnik.am website, 15 out of 28 materials have an active link to the material or website.
Although these Armenian media outlets cite authoritative foreign websites as the source of many articles, our research has shown that they are often taken not from those sources but from Russian sources. Sometimes this information is mediated by more than two sources.
Even the statistics related to different countries and international official information reach the Armenian media through the mediation of Russian sources.
In such cases, the risk of receiving unilateral information is not ruled out, as each country, including Russia, has its own interests, and Russian media can choose from international news and translate only the information about the coronavirus that suits their interests or present that information from their convenient point of view.
According to a report in The Guardian on the Russian media’s coverage of the coronavirus, “Russian media spreads Covid-19 misinformation,” the EU monitoring group had collected 80 copies of Russian sources in about two months.
“According to researchers, instead of creating misinformation, Russian sources have strengthened theories in other places, such as China, Iran or the United States. This tactic allows them to avoid accusations of misinformation, instead claiming that they are simply reporting what others are reporting,” the statement said.
The publications based on selectively translated or original material appear in the Armenian media field in the same way. However, the media mainly do not inform the reader about this.
The article was prepared as an educational material within the framework of the Media Initiatives Fact-Finding Training Program