“The Long-Term Coverage Of The Coronavirus Will Damage Citizen’s Media Immunity”

Gayane Asryan


Gevorg Tosunyan is an active journalist working for the press service of Public Television. His articles are often the subject of litigation or public debate because he chooses sharp and sensitive topics.

In the days of the coronavirus, he often shared his experience in fighting the virus on his Facebook page. He personally searches and finds masks, disinfectants and even construction glasses.

He spends about 23,000 drams a month to buy protective equipment and, with his own experience, understands which means are more effective. In this way, he protects not only himself and his relatives from the virus, but also his colleagues and interlocutors.

In the first stage of coronavirus, when a state of emergency was declared, how did you feel, especially in times when you were in contact with people?

The last four months have been emotionally different. We journalists when compared to medical workers have fewer and less dangerous scope of communication but those contacts contain danger, especially in the coverage of crowded protests or demonstrations.

My first moment of stress was on March 1, the first case of coronavirus in Armenia that day. The carrier was a citizen who arrived from Iran on February 28.

I was at the airport that day when I found out about the incident on the morning of March 1.

I remember entering four pharmacies before the coverage and I didn’t find any masks with a respirator and I decided to buy an FFP2 mask from a hardware store. It was a little comforting, but the tension remained high.

I was so tense that when I covered the March 1 meeting of the board of the Civil Contract Party, I received the first psychological piece of advice from the Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan in front of the entrance.

Due to the tension, I even misspoke my thoughts and the minister thought that I was on that plane and immediately urged me to go home. During that time, Torosyan received a call, and while he was answering the call, I heard my heart pounding.

When the conversation ended, I explained that I had not been on the plane, but that I had arrived at the airport, and the minister immediately reassured me that there was no need to worry.

Thus, the number of cases increased and the fears decreased. Now I realize that today is more dangerous than a month or a week ago, but my attitude has changed, now I am calmer and more sober.

How do I work and try not to get infected? Let me express this in points:

  • I wear masks with a respirator.
  • I assess the risk and wear goggles if necessary.
  • I disinfect my hands every 5-7 minutes or after touching an unfamiliar surface, if there is running water, I wash constantly.
  • I always maintain a social distance of at least one meter.
  • I disinfect my phone regularly, of course, in such a way that it doesn’t go out of order.
  • Every morning, I clean my desk with an alcohol-based liquid.
  • When I get home, I use the same spray in my car.
  • When I enter the house from the store, I must disinfect the bags and it’s contents (aside from produce of course) with the necessary spray.
  • I don’t participate in weddings, birthdays or other crowded events at all, we only met in a close circle of family.
  • My friends and I have not been drinking wine for about four months, and when we communicate, we keep at least two meters of social distance.
  • I am optimistic, all this will end soon.

In fact, you spend a lot of time on these activities, did you develop these steps yourself?

As soon as the infection entered Armenia, I started reading scientific articles, moreover, from reliable sources. I have always checked the source of the article, I am sure that the organization that conducted the research is reliable.

As a result of my research, I realized that I needed to protect myself by using only masks with respirators and, if necessary, wearing goggles.

For example, after the closure of Etchmiadzin, when people avoided visiting there, I went to film, my cameraman was from the city. The driver was so tense that during the three-hour filming, he never got out of the car or even smoked.

During that day, I defended myself by wearing a mask, goggles and constantly disinfecting my hands with alcogel. By the way, I bought the goggles from a hardware store, because it is impossible to find medical goggles both in the past and now. And with construction goggles, you can seal your face hermetically.

Last month, one of my colleagues became infected, and I was filming with him from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in various closed areas. I’ve been wearing a mask with a respirator all along. Later, when I found out about his infection, I was tested and the result was negative. Twenty-five days have passed since the test, and I have no symptoms.

This case further strengthened my opinion that it is always necessary to wear a mask, moreover, with a respirator.

You have a large “arsenal” of protective equipment and you often talk about it on social media.

I have 10 masks with respirators in my “arsenal” to protect against the coronavirus.

In Public Television we are regularly given regular medical masks and alcohol, they protect us, but not at a sufficient level, I prefer to buy the masks myself.

I have bought various masks over the past few months. I keep the best ones, as it is difficult to find such masks now.

In addition, last month I ordered an N95 bicycle mask from China with its filters. Every week I buy half a liter of alcogel, and every two weeks the spray disinfectant is used up. I also have four construction, transparent goggles. In total, these purchases add up to 23,000 AMD a month.

Has the coronavirus changed the logic of the media flow?

Now journalism has lost the attention of viewers, readers and radio listeners. To put it more bluntly, sometimes an event can attract the attention of citizens like a magnet, such as sending space astronauts into space for the first time on SpaceX.

Such topics attract the viewer at the time of the event, this event received little attention due to the coronavirus.

For at least two months, the viewer simply did not want to hear anything but the coronavirus. Even today, the coverage of this infection is mostly aimed at this public interest.

Very interesting reports remain out of the media flow. In addition, we are increasingly losing face-to-face contact.

Is it possible to endlessly cover the topic of the infection, when will we get bored?

An infinite or long time, for example, 2-3 years of coverage, will only harm people. After all, it will damage the media immunity of citizens.

The infection has formed its agenda. This reality has both positive and negative consequences.

On the positive side, by raising awareness about the rate, risk and prevention of human infection on a daily basis, we are helping to protect the public.

On the negative side, however, other, more important topics remain on the sidelines. In the first two months of the spread of the infection, it was almost impossible to provide people with other information.  They simply weren’t interested in those reports.

But in the near future, I think, the media field will be off the agenda and will continue to actively inform citizens about other events, changes and issues.

Interview by Gayane Asryan

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