By Emil Danielyan
A television network sponsored by a U.S. philanthropist of Armenian descent and loyal to President Robert Kocharian faced on Friday an angry rebuttal of its apparent allegations that Armenia’s leading human rights groups work for Western intelligence services.
In a report aired for three consecutive days, the Armenia TV station and its two sister channels suggested that the Armenian Helsinki Committee (AHC) and other local watchdogs receive Western grants in return for spying on their country. The report featured excerpts from an interview with the chairman of the Yerevan Press Club, Boris Navasardian, which left the impression that he agrees with the allegations.
In a written statement, Navasardian accused the channels of “manipulating” and taking his statements out of context to suit their agenda. He said he simply referred to one of several Russian human rights organizations, also called the Helsinki Committee, accused by the Kremlin of cooperating with British intelligence. The quote was followed by images of AHK chairman Avetik Ishkhanian who was also interviewed by the reporter.
The latter appeared to make the point that Armenian non-governmental organizations “funded from abroad” are also engaged in “anti-state activities.” According to Navasardian, his key remarks were intentionally left out of the report. He said one of his points was that Armenia’s national interests converge with those of leading Western powers and that there is nothing wrong with accepting financial assistance from them.
“I also made it clear that the views of Armenian human rights organizations may differ from those of the Armenian authorities but that I rule out their involvement in anti-state activities,” added the YPC chairman.
Incidentally, Armenia TV and its ArmNews and TV5 affiliates themselves have a wealthy Western sponsor in Armenian-American businessman Gerard Cafesjian who has invested millions of dollars in them in recent years. The three channels are part of the CS Media group co-owned by Cafesjian and a pro-government Armenian businessman. Its news coverage has been sympathetic to Kocharian and critical of his political opponents.
“Sadly, Gerard Cafesjian’s investments are used for spreading government propaganda and disinformation and reviving Soviet-style anti-journalism,” Ishkhanian said in a separate statement.
He claimed that the espionage accusations were ordered by the Armenian authorities in retaliation for his organization’s sharp criticism of their human rights record and their handling of elections. He said they may have also been “instructed from Russia” where the authorities are increasingly restricting activities of Western-funded civic groups.
(Photolur photo: Gerard Cafesjian.)