CIACR-South Caucasus Interviews with Head of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan
What is the order of broadcasting of foreign and, in particular, Russian TV channels in Armenia? What country does the legislation apply to them?
Three Russian TV channels are broadcast in Armenia: "First Channel", "Russia-1" and "Culture". They are guaranteed the provision of frequencies, and after switching to digital broadcasting - places in the public digital multiplex, based on the Armenian-Russian intergovernmental agreement. Relaying of TV channels is carried out by the local company, which won the competition and received the corresponding license. The legal basis for relaying is the intergovernmental agreement and the law of Armenia "On Television and Radio".
In the public digital multiplex the place is allocated for one foreign TV channel. And the competition won the company, which relays CNN.
There are also many TV channels that broadcast in cable packages, but this is already a private initiative. A cable package is offered by a licensed company that makes a broadcast contract in its packages. They also comply with the requirements of Armenian law and are subjects to which claims may be made in case of violation of the provisions of the law.
In your opinion, "Velvet Revolution" has actualized issues of foreign, in particular, Russian propaganda in Armenia?
Most likely, in the context of one of the topics criticizing the new government, there were problems in the Armenian-Russian relations. And regardless of whether the claim is artificial or there is some reason behind it. In any case, the Armenian authorities do not recognize that criticism is justified, and argue that Armenian-Russian relations have never been as successful as they are now. Nevertheless, propaganda messings have a certain influence on public opinion. And the criticism of the new authorities, some phenomena about Armenian life in the Russian media, especially the leading ones, pours oil into the fire, and makes the claims of the current opposition to the authorities more justified.
And can this be called propaganda?
In principle, everything that is not based only on facts, everything that contains an interpretation of facts, it can be called propaganda. Because there is no clear definition of propaganda in any law, therefore, this term is compelled to be interpreted quite freely. For example, there are transmissions of Russian TV channels on a criminal case against Robert Kocharian (the second president of Armenia accused of overthrowing the constitutional system - T.P.), which contains not only facts, but also assessments. This means that some kind of subjective opinion, which is imposed to a certain extent by the Armenian public, is expressed, therefore, to some extent, they can be perceived as propaganda.
And such propaganda poses a threat?
Taking into account that this content is in line with the activities of the Armenian judiciary, it can be said that it has a negative impact on political stability in Armenia.
Are there legislative norms to prevent it from spreading?
Since propaganda is not a legal term, there can be no obstacle to it either. To do this, there should be other content elements, say, incitement to racial hatred, discrimination of an ethnic or racial group, if there is propaganda of war and violence. That is, if propaganda falls under a certain category of legal prohibitions, or if they contain elements that fall under the civil code: slander, insult. If the elements do not contradict the specific articles of the criminal and civil code, propaganda, in our understanding, does not exist in legal methods of counteraction.
What is the audience of Russian TV channels, and which age groups do they cover?
I think that their audience is less than it was in previous years. If to believe the latest research, then Russian TV channels give way as sources of actual information (I'm not talking about entertainment programs) online publications and social networks, as well as Armenian television. If so conditionally grouping sources of information, Russian TV channels - in the third place by influence.
It's hard to judge the kind of entertainment that many on Russian TV channels, since there is no research data. I think they enjoy a certain popularity. Especially since there are frequent guests from Armenia or with Armenian surnames. It is always a matter of interest, regardless of whether people are watching directly on the air or on the Internet. A fairly large part of the public looks at the speeches of the Armenians who are successful.
As for political programs, they are only interested in a politically active part of the Armenian society. And here the interest is wavy. International information in the Armenian media is limited due to the lack of opportunities and resources. Russian TV channels, to some extent, replace this deficit. But what is waveliness? Depending on what the Russian information political programs or show are accentuating, the interest may be high or not. When there is a huge flow of information on Ukraine and elections there, I think at this time, interest drops sharply. When it comes to world events that are of interest to the Armenian public, but they are not diverse and dominant, I think that interest is increasing. If we proceed from this, then in the last month the interest was clearly small ...
Therefore, the assertion that the population of the post-Soviet countries learns about the world processes, mainly from Russian TV channels, is generally correct ...?
Not everywhere For the post-Soviet countries it is difficult to judge, for example, the countries of Central Asia. From the countries of "symbolic Europe", events in the world on Russian TV channels are interesting for a spectator from Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and the Russian-speaking part of the Moldovan public. In Ukraine and Georgia, I think less interest. In Ukraine, a bit more, because there is a Russian-speaking segment of the audience, but in Georgia, I think, quite a bit of interest.
In Moldova, non-Russian speaking spectator, Romanian TV channels will prefer. In Ukraine, there are quite strong broadcasting companies - self-sufficient for the audience, which watches transmissions in the Ukrainian language. There are fewer alternatives for the Armenian, Belarusian and Azerbaijani audiences. I would say that from the information in the world from the Russian TV channels, the people most directly depend on Armenia, Belarus and Azerbaijan.
What, in your opinion, is the last anti-Armenian hysteria on the Russian TV channels?
For those representatives of the Russian political and political elite who have access to the Russian federal channels broadcasting in Armenia, all those democratic processes that have taken place or are taking place in Armenia are unacceptable. It is alien to them because of their mentality and political views. Therefore, they are negatively related to all of this, and this negative is expressed in programs in which they have a dominant position or a dominant role. As for the last months, there is already a strong factor in circles - both in Armenia itself and in Russia - who are dissatisfied with the processes taking place in Armenia. They have connections and influences on Russian television, and they add a negative perception of Armenia to the negative that we hear from the relevant Russian political circles. Hence the intensification of this type of content.
This will not split into Armenian-Russian relations?
Indeed, in a certain part of the Armenian society there is a perception that everything that is said on leading Russian TV channels is the position of the Kremlin and the Russian authorities. True, I'm sure this connection is greatly exaggerated, but with this perception nothing can be done. People are used to saying that once they say on TV - that is, Vladimir Putin thinks so. In this sense, certain tension in the perception of the Armenian public of Russia makes such content.
Representative of the ruling political force at a meeting with the head of the Commission on Television and Radio of Armenia proposed to ban the broadcast of the Russian television channel "Russia-1". How much is it legal and whether there are no contradictions with the freedom of speech?
From a legal point of view, this claim is completely unfounded. And I have already spoken about the reasons, because the retransmission is guaranteed by an intergovernmental agreement.
From a substantive point of view, the question was also incorrect, since such information, which was heard on the air of the Russian TV channel, is heard from, among others, from numerous Armenian mass media. And the claims to the retransmission of the Russian TV channel can not be different, than to the Armenian TV channels, which criticize the authorities on the same issues, and even on a broader range of issues. With the same success, you may be required to ban the broadcast of the majority of Armenian TV channels. Content is the same.
The head of the commission in answer brought an example to Georgia and Ukraine, which, according to him, lost parts of their territories after the ban of Russian TV channels. How correctly is the comparison with the Ukrainian and Georgian experience of prohibitions?
Both the question and the answer were in the space of legal illiteracy. The head of the commission could say why not close the Armenian "5 Channel" ... What are the legal grounds? And since there are no grounds, the discussion of the question is meaningless. But he, for some reason, conducted a parallel with Georgia and Ukraine, stating that an attack on Russian TV channels had negative consequences. I am not aware of these negative consequences. Negative consequences are connected with contradictions between Russia and Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. TV channels, at best, are music on the background of problems that exist in interstate relations.
In addition, the actions of the authorities of Georgia and Ukraine to the Russian TV channels are due to the fact that interstate relations can, with slight exaggeration, be called an undeclared war. In the end, Russia regards Crimea as its territory, and for Ukraine any mention of the Crimea as part of Russia is a criminal offense. Naturally, Ukraine can not allow content on its territory, which contradicts the Criminal Code. Approximately the same is true of Georgia in terms of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are just any actions against the Russian TV channels, their prohibition or blocking, have a sufficiently solid legal basis. We do not even have such a legal base. Therefore, the comparison was incorrect in principle.
Yes, and indeed, between Ukraine and Georgia, there is a significant difference in this issue. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia is fresh, and broadcasting of Russian TV channels in any form is prohibited. But people can catch them through satellite dishes. In Georgia, it is not forbidden to place Russian TV channels in cable packages. And they are in Georgia.
Interviewed Tigran Petrosyan, specially for CIACR-South Caucasus