a United States government-sponsored media development
program is calling upon Armenian journalists to
"arm themselves with courage and objectivity
for these last difficult days of the electoral
At a news conference today in Internews' Yerevan
headquarters, Chief of Party William M. Canter
and managing director Nouneh Sarkissian told journalists
their agency is troubled by episodes of intimidation,
physical attacks and destruction of recording
equipment inflicted on the media during the Presidential
"These incidents are a serious setback to
the progress of civil society in Armenia,"
Canter said. "I'm deeply concerned that the
development of a free, unbiased and objective
media is being gravely hindered."
Veteran Armenian journalist Sarkissian called
last week's Presidential elections "a step
back" for democratic principles, saying that
the efforts of journalists were more restricted
this election than in previous ones.
time when we switched the channels we could only
find biased information and to feel a sense of
shame," Sarkissian said. "We got confused
realizing that the reality is not being reflected
in an adequate way."
An Internews statement was released to about
40 journalists attending the press conference
in which the agency calls elections a "test
of the mass media's professionalism . . . Armenian
media, broadcasters in particular, did not pass
the test in February 2003."
While critical of the media performance Sarkissian
said the purpose of the meeting was not to accuse
journalists, but to find ways to improve their
mission in Armenia is to strengthen independent
media and work to allow all journalists an editorial
environment that encourages the professional,
objective and honest dissemination of information,"
Much of the hour-long meeting centered on one
of Internews' own television programs.
Each week Internews produces "Ditak"
(Spyglass) a 20-minute news program that focuses
on one topic from what project assistant Tatevik
Oganesyan called "an eyeglass, a magnifying
glass, then a microscope".
Part of Internews presence in Armenia is to produce
"Ditak" and distribute to 23 stations
throughout the country. Last week's program focused
on alleged election fraud and included video interviews
of voters' accusations, including one group complaining
that they were offered up to 10,000 drams (about
$17) each for their votes, but then were not paid.
here to see portions of the videotape)
Internews says it has agreements with all 23
stations to air "Ditak" each week. But
last Sunday, Shant, generally considered to present
pro-government programming, refused to air the
Internews producer Armen Sargsyan says his program
was the 66th edition of "Ditak" produced
since November 2001 and is the first Shant has
refused to broadcast.
Artur Yezekyan, Director of Shant TV company
told ArmeniaNow his company refused to air the
program because it was slanted.
"The program from its beginning to the end
was biased and partial," says Yezekyan. "There
were presented only one-sided comments without
referring to the other side."
In other election-related news:
(ArmeniaNow reporters Zhanna
Alexanyan and Vahan Ishkhanyan contributed to
- More campaign-related arrests were reported
today. In the Shengavit district at least three
people are being detained for 15 days.
Head of the Regional Council of Shengavit, Edik
Madatyan, who was arrested February 22 as part
of the police enforcement of illegal public
demonstration, had to be taken to hospital with
a bleeding stomach ulcer.
- Russian television channel NTV, which broadcasts
in Armenia, went off the air as it was broadcasting
coverage of anti-government demonstrations Wednesday
night. The National Commission of Radio and
TV says the channel is having transmission problems
with its Armenian feed. The channel has been
dark since Wednesday, but is expected to be
- Wednesday, the Opposition announced it would
hold a campaign rally Saturday at the Institute
of Manuscripts. Yesterday, the Dashnakstutyun
Party ("Dashnaks"), one of the oldest
parties in Armenia and supporters of President
Robert Kocharyan, announced a counter-demonstration
for the time at the same place.
But today, Aghvan Vardanyan, head of the Dashnak
Party in Parliament, told ArmeniaNow that together
with other parties supporting Kocharyan, a decision
would be made tonight on whether to hold concurrent
- Yesterday Kocharyan visited various campaign
headquarters. Today both he and his opponent,
Stepan Demirchyan, went to Tsitsernakaberd monument
to pay honor to those who died 15 years ago
during pogroms in Sumgait, Azerbaijan which
was the flashpoint of the war in Karabakh.
- Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and would-be
Presidential candidate Raffi Hovhannisian appeared
in court today, asking that his citizenship
status be reconsidered. The U.S.-born Hovhanissian,
was granted Armenian citizenship in 2001, but
has argued that he was illegally denied citizenship
when he first applied in 1991.
Earlier this month a court ruled Hovhannisian
ineligible to stand for President, as he did
not meet the 10-year citizenship requirement.
A court is expected to rule on his latest motion
in a week.