“Pollitik.am”’s interview with the head of “Media Advocate” Initiative, Aghasi Yenokyan
– Mr. Yenokyan, how would you comment on the following statement by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, addressed to NSS Director Arthur Vanetsyan: “Yes, freedom of speech and information is guaranteed in our country but if some criminal circles spend millions on social networks and media to manipulate public opinion, it is nothing but a matter of national security. I hope your Service will be able to provide exact results in this regard. “
Nikol Pashinyan addresses this issue very often, but there also exist proofs that some “fake makers” receive state funding. It is not the first time that the myth of spending millions on fakes is being publicized. I think uttering this issue, the authorities express the desire to establish monopoly in the field of fakes and dissemination of misinformation.
– Recently, many fake rumors are disseminated which are denied later on. The authorities, pointing this very fact, say there should exist certain restrictions for media agencies to avoid dissemination of misinformation. According to some allegations, the authorities may disseminate misinformation to justify the probable restrictions for media agencies. Is that possible?
After the change of power, and especially after the parliamentary elections, the authorities, and particularly the Prime Minister, have repeatedly stated their intention to fight against the press and free speech. Among the reason for silencing the media was also mentioned the dissemination of misinformation. Here, two important questions arise: first, does the current legislation have appropriate mechanisms to counteract against fake news, accusations, slander and insult, which the authorities do not use because of some unknown reasons. They are constantly expressing the wish to fight against them with out-of-court means. And secondly, as you mentioned, a serious source of false information and misinformation is the different authorities who spread irresponsible statements and false stories, for such various reasons as desire but lack of abilities, organizational skills, the absence of coordination or internal problems and intrigues.
I find the mentioned mechanism of spreading misinformation exaggerated. It is exaggerated that it can be a reason to suppress the press, because even without it, such fake news is being created.
Will the authorities undertake further exact pressures? The solution to this issue depends on how much government will suppress media, how much they are ready to commit illegal actions on this path. The other factor is the cohesion of the media and society։ to what extent they will fight against the will of the authorities to silence them? At least, up to date, with some losses, the society has managed to withstand this problem.
-Some deputies and officials of the ruling elite also discuss creating a fund that will finance the media. The goal is to ensure financial independence of the media. Will it give independence in case that, no matter what, there will be a financial assistance from the third side as well?
Obviously, state-financed media will consider the will of the authorities and by applying this mechanism to some media, the authorities will put them in an apparently unequivocal position towards others, which in its turn will become a reason of substantial media competition. In fact, this will become a serious source of corruption as well.
But the authorities have other means that can contribute to the financial independence of the media, such as different taxation tools, promotion of advertisers, etc. while we see that they are undertaking diametrically opposite steps. A vivid example of it, is the decision to raise the rents for those media agencies which are situated in the state areas and to evict them from there.