The ruling Republican Party (HHK) is receiving more extensive and positive election-related coverage from Armenia’s leading broadcasters than other major political forces, an independent media watchdog said on Tuesday.
The Yerevan Press Club (YPC) said the news reporting of the state-run Armenian Public Television has been particularly slanted in favor of the HHK.
The YPC based its findings on a ten-day monitoring of the political news programming of eight TV channels and Armenian Public Radio that was conducted this month.
A detailed report released by the non-governmental organization concluded that they aired a total of 221 minutes of overwhelming positive news and commentary relating to the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian
The HHK was followed by the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and a junior partner in the governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). They received 135 minutes and 123 minutes of coverage respectively, according to the YPC. The bulk of that coverage was done by TV stations controlled by the two parties.
The YPC put the total length of TV and radio reports about the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) at around 60 minutes, compared with 95 minutes devoted to the less radical Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.
Public Television’s uneven coverage of the unfolding parliamentary race was especially glaring. The YPC report said Armenia’s largest broadcaster spent 20 times more airtime on the HHK than the BHK. The latter featured in Public Television programs much less frequently than even the HAK and Zharangutyun.
Presenting the report at a news conference, the YPC chairman, Boris Navasardian, said the news reporting of the broadcast media outlets monitored by his organization is significantly influenced by the fact that most of them are owned by businessmen close to the government.
Navasardian also referred to “mechanisms for hidden censorship” which he said seriously influence the broadcasters’ work. “Another reason is that political forces are not equally active in this pre-election period,” he said.
The Armenian broadcast media has long been criticized by domestic and foreign observers for openly backing pro-government parties and individuals during election campaigns.