On July 10 OSCE/ODIHR Election monitoring mission published its final report on Armenian Parliamentary elections 2017. On July 11 the report was covered by H1 and Shant TV stations during the prime times news (H1 Orakarg 21.00 and Shant TV Horizon 22.00). In case of Shant TV it was covered not in the framework of a classical news reportage, but as an interview with political scientist Knyaz Saroyan (we never heard about him before).
Interestingly both Orakarg’s news reportee and Knyaz Saroyan in Horizon’s pavilion mostly presented the positive points of the report and almost skipping the negative remarks. Moreover, both in case of Saroyan’s interview and H1’s reportage there is a statement that the report described the work of TV stations as “balanced”. However, there is no such word in the report, and such an assessment either.
The report is assesing the work of TV stations based on two main principles, i.e. equal time allocated to all political parties and the tone.
According to OSCE report, According to the OSCE/ODIHR EOM monitoring results, during the campaign the public H1 devoted an equitable share of airtime to all contestants in its newscasts. Meanwhile, Shant TV devoted 20 percent of the news to the RPA while giving between 7 and 12 per cent to the others.
While, the report mentions that the during the campaign the news coverage on all monitored TV stations was 98 per cent neutral or positive in tone, monitoring results for the period from 24 February to 4 March, before the start of official campaign, revealed a clear bias of monitored TV stations in favour of their publicly perceived party affiliation. Most probably, in order to address this issue, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM report proposes to monitor media coverage throughout the year.
Apart from the abovementioned points the OSCE/ODIHR EOM report also mentions “undue interference of media owners into editorial autonomy resulted in self-censorship of journalists and discouragement of critical reporting of the government, including on public television.” This interference, according to the report, “has resulted in self-censorship and discouraged critical reporting of the government, including on public TV. News stories of public interest related to the elections, including the publication of lists of supporters collected by principals of schools and electoral complaints heard by the CEC, were not covered by the public broadcaster H1 primetime news but were covered in other media.”
Hence, it is impossible to describe the assessment of the work of TV stations by OSCE/ODIHR EOM report as “balanced”. The report is not using this word and presentation of the report’s remarks on the work of TV stations exclusively from positive side is a public opinion manipulation and nothing more.