Souren Deheryan, president of Journalists for Future NGO believes that publications containing positive or negative remarks during election period can affect voters’ opinion and, therefore, election outcome. He declared this on 15 June while presenting the results of the monitoring of online mass media.
Let us remind that Journalists for Future NGO monitored 10 Internet mass media reporting on political forces running for parliamentary elections by party lists.From 8 April to 20 May ten online media were monitored:www.1in.am, www.7or.am, www.a1plus.am, www.azatutyun.am, www.civilnet.am, www.lragir.am, www.news.am, www.tert.am, www.panorama.am, and www.panarmenian.net websites.
During the monitoring period, in total 8.156 materials were published in the observed ten media websites, where political parties were mentioned 18.288 times. Political party activities were reported mostly by tert.am, panarmenian.net, and 1in.am websites. Relatively less amount of publications on party activities appeared on the websites of civilnet.am and azatutyun.am, though these media were also significantly active in comparison to the other websites.
In these 8.156 publications, the most often were mentioned Armenian Republican Party (ARP), Armenian National Congress (ANC) and Prosperous Armenia (PO) political parties.
The organization analyzed also the nature of publications, outlining positive, neutral and negative remarks. The monitoring results demonstrate that 68.7 per cent of the comments were neutral, 23.8 per cent- negative and 7.6 per cent- positive.
According to Souren Deheryan, the majority of mass media were one-sided and not balanced.
The president of Journalists for Future described the overall situations as “Together all 10 monitored websites kept neutrality. On the other side, they left the readers unsatisfied, because the one-sided information circulated during that time was not properly digested by the readers. The positive and negative materials, which made more than 30% of publications, also created biased opinion among the readers, preventing them from understanding clearly the essence of questions discussed.”
To the www.hra.am question, whether the one-sided and unbalanced information could influence the opinion and therefore the voting of readers, Deheryan answered: “Certainly, yes. If a website continuously publishes negative materials about activities of a political party activity, the readers will form a negative impression of the party, and vice versa.”
However, Souren Deheryan also noted that the readers of internet media were considered relatively more educated and intelligent, and thus could figure out that “in whose hands a given website plays.”
He advised that news media act in a more professional way to gain and keep their readers’ confidence and not lose them in one day, because this will also impact their advertisers, who help media to survive.
The monitoring confirmed that the online media did not keep “the day of silence” rule, in contrast to the traditional media.
According to the results of observation, on 5 May there were 88 publications, in which 152 remarks were devoted to political forces. The ARP was mentioned 74 times, the PA -28 times and the Armenian Revolutionary Party Dashnaktsutyun – 25 times.
On the day of silence, the most “noisy” were panorama.am, 7or.am, 1in.am websites, and the relatively reserved were a1plus.am, azatutyun.am, and panarmenian.net.
Souren Deheryan noted that several online websites mentioned the ARP in their reports on exploded balloons in the Republic Square, and the other websites did not. “Probably, the absence of a self-regulatory body or legislative norms became the reason for the online media using their own discretion.”