Recently, “sensational”, “shocking” information has been circulating on news websites and social networks, the source of which is the Mediaport Telegram channel. This channel was opened only a few months ago, the founders are not known, and the information that appears there is also published by a number of opposition media from the very first day of its generation.
Given that the news shared by this channel generates a great deal of response among the media consumers, the Fact Investigation Platform decided to find out who is behind the channel.
Activity of the channel
Mediaport Telegram channel was created immediately after the end of the war on November 11, 2020. The description of the channel reads “reliable news”. It is not specified who is behind the channel, who generates the information posted there.
In the early stages of its creation, information about events to take place could often be found on the channel, which became reality hours or days after its publication. Among them were the news about the dismissal of several high-ranking officials (Minister of Defense David Tonoyan, Minister of Emergency Situations Felix Tsolakyan, Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan, etc.). This suggests that those behind the channel have their sources in the government.
The series of fake news
But for the most part, the channel, often citing anonymous sources, floods the information field with false, manipulative, out-of-context, gossip-level information and publications.
The channel reported on November 11 that all the roads leading to Yerevan were closed by the Police, and people were moving to Yerevan on foot. Meanwhile, in reality, the Police checked the vehicles in order to find the possible illegal weapons and ammunition after the end of the war. The roads were not closed, and the citizens did not come to Yerevan on foot.
On November 16, the channel reported that Vice Speaker of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan had not returned from a business trip, and was hiding in Moscow, as the representatives of the Armenian community of Russia were looking for him to avenge the capitulation of Artsakh. However, Alen Simonyan had returned from Moscow a few days ago, and on the same day, November 16, he was chairing the meeting of Nikol Pashinyan with the deputies in the National Assembly.
On November 20, the channel hurried to inform that the Primate of the Artsakh Diocese, Bishop Pargev, had died. This information was denied by the press service of the Holy See, and His Holiness Pargev soon appeared in public.
On December 24, the channel posted a video with the note that the Azeris used military equipment to remove the sign of Vorotan community of Syunik Province, while, in reality, the Azeris entered Vorotan town of Kashatagh region of Artsakh, known as Kubatlu. The city was taken over by Azerbaijan during the war.
Such false or unverified publications by Mediaport can be listed endlessly. For example, the information about the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan, the fake news about the alleged search of the apartment of priest Pargev Zeynalyan, the pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Sisian, and etc.
On January 17, the Telegram channel reported that Anna Hakobyan had been handed over the ownership of the real estate belonging to the Aliyevs in Dubai, and published a gas payment receipt as evidence.
In addition, the channel often shares information written in the style of the yellow press, conspiracy theories, gossip, which is generally impossible to verify. For example, the channel wrote about the “serious” argument between the former Minister of Defense Davit Tonoyan and the former commander of the Defense Army Jalal Harutyunyan before the explosion of the latter’s car. Although the channel does not write it openly, it gives the impression that Tonoyan organized the leak of information about Jalal Harutyunyan’s movement direction. In another post, the channel reported that Nikol Pashinyan’s “communication” with Ilham Aliyev is provided by the wife of former Spokesperson for the Prime Minister Vladimir Karapetyan, who allegedly has meetings with representatives of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.
The channel regularly reports such information about the authorities and their relatives, which is actively circulated by a group of media outlets, which we will address shortly.
Who is behind the Telegram Channel
The study of the channel and comparison with other sources gives serious grounds to claim that it has a direct connection with the extremely conservative “VETO” movement, as well as Narek Malyan, its founder and former adviser to Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparyan.
On December 10, Mediaport published a video where Narek Malyan and former RPA MP Arman Saghatelyan, co-founder of “Qaryak Media” company, are being detained in the Republic Square. An excerpt from the video was published on the Telegram channel, and the full version was posted on the “VETO” YouTube channel. When studying the video, we noticed that it was filmed by Anna Hakobyan, a member of the “VETO” movement, because in the full version of the video, the cameraman starts arguing with a policeman and a citizen, and we can see that she is wearing a red jacket.
In the video and photo published by another member of the “VETO” movement, Hermine Grigoryan, Anna Hakobyan, the author of the video disseminated by Mediaport, is wearing a red jacket. On the next day, Anna Hakobyan posted a photo of the citizen who had an argument with her on her Facebook page and presented an excerpt from the conversation that took place at that moment.
The fact that the video posted by Mediaport was shot by Anna Hakobyan is clearly visible on the live broadcast of Tert.am website (6th minute).
It should be noted that the video was published in Mediaport on December 10, 06:03pm, while it appeared on the “VETO” YouTube page 8 hours later, on December 11, at 02:05am. In other words, the Telegram channel could not have taken the video from the “VETO” YouTube page, as it had not been published yet. Hence, the published video was passed on to Mediaport or published by the members of “VETO”.
In addition, Mediaport was actively covering the protest that took place on December 8 in front of the NSS building. The study of the published videos and the comparison with the video posted by “VETO” on the same day prove that the videos of the Telegram channel about that protest were shot by “VETO” member Hermine Grigoryan. The latter posted one of Mediaport videos on her Facebook page.
On December 3, the channel mentioned in one of the posts about the so-called “Farkhoyan list”. The name of the list will not tell you anything if you are not following Narek Malyan or at least Malyan’s ideologue, lawyer Ruben Melikyan. Thus, on November 24, Ruben Melikyan wrote that they were going to compile a list of names of judges fulfilling Nikol Pashinyan’s orders. The first on that list was Judge Karen Farkhoyan from the Court of First Instance of Yerevan, and the list was named “Farkhoyan’s List” in his honor.
However, Narek Malyan started talking more actively about that list, and even specified in his Facebook Live who will be included in that list.
The posts about “Farkhoyan’s list” smoothly moved from Narek Malyan’s page to Mediaport Telegram channel (post 1, post 2).
However, the series of similar posts by Mediaport and Narek Malyan do not end here. Malyan had repeatedly stated that he would write every day about the number of victims, wounded, prisoners and missing persons, information allegedly kept secret by the authorities. However, in recent days he has stopped writing about it on a daily basis, instead almost the same text is posted by Mediaport.
Apart from all this, the connection between Mediaport and “VETO” is explained by several other facts. For example, while covering the decentralized protests organized by the 17 parties, Mediaport posted videos and photos of the specific places where Narek Malyan was at that time. One of them was the decentralized protest of November 20. Mediaport was covering what was happening on Saryan Street. “Surprisingly”, Narek Malyan was in the same place, and was detained there. Besides, the protest was covered live on Facebook by the “VETO” movement. The fact that there was no media covering the protest makes the connection between “VETO” and Mediaport more obvious.
Narek Malyan and Mediaport made a note about the protest that took place near the house of MP Hamazasp Danielyan on November 28. This action was not covered by any media on the spot, and Mediaport and Malyan published the same video. It is noteworthy that the videos appeared on the pages of the Telegram Channel (18:26) and Narek Malyan (18:28) with a difference of only 2 minutes, which allows us to assert the connection between the two.
In general, the Facebook pages of the members of the Telegram Channel and “VETO” movement cover the same topics almost at the same time, share the same news, videos, photos. For example, Mediaport began to actively write about the policemen killed in the bombing of the Shushi Culture House during the war. At the same time, Narek Malyan started talking about the topic.
Members of Mediaport and “VETO” movement often share the same information with a difference of minutes, even seconds. And in general, the members of the “VETO” movement often mention Mediaport in their Facebook posts. For example, member of the movement Anna Hakobyan (post 1, post 2, post 3 and etc.) Alexandra Harutyunyan (post 1, post 2, post 3 and etc.), and others.
However, in some cases the opposite happens. Mediaport publishes a video or post a few minutes after Malyan does.
Malyan shares Mediaport posts more “carefully”. In the early days of the Telegram channel, Malyan shared an article from Analitik.am, where the website, referring to Mediaport, reported that the MPs of the ruling party were solving an urgent visa issue to flee the country, which, in fact, was a lie.
Later, Malyan started advertising Mediaport more openly. On December 4, Malyan posted a link from the Telegram channel on his Facebook page with the caption “The most operational and reliable information at the moment is on this Telegram channel.” On December 12, Malyan “advertised” the channel again. “Let me say that this Telegram channel reports quite operational news.”
It is obvious that the members of the “VETO” movement are directly affiliated with Mediaport, but other available evidence gives grounds to state that other people are also behind the channel.
The connection between the media and Mediaport
The general public would not have known about the “unknown” Mediaport, if it had not been actively shared by the media. As we mentioned, days after its creation, Mediaport’s posts appeared on the pages of opposition media. Considering that the creators of the channel are not known, that there was no advertisement informing about it, the reference of the media to this “unknown” Telegram channel is rather strange, and raises questions.
For example, the channel was first mentioned on ArmNews TV, just two days after the creation of the Telegram channel, on November 13. It was related to one of the people who destroyed the property of the National Assembly, who, according to the Telegram channel, a few days later was condemning those who entered the National Assembly on the Public Television.
This post was made by the Telegram channel at 04:00pm, 16 minutes later the post was shared by Tert.am, 04:34pm by Blognews.am, 06:39pm by Aysor.am, later by other websites. It should be noted that many of Mediaport’s posts appear on Tert.am website in a matter of 10 minutes. ArmNews often quotes Mediaport’s unsigned posts.
It should be reminded that the Tert.am news website and ArmNews TV belong to “Qaryak Media”. The company was founded in February 2019 by former deputies of the Republican faction Arman Saghatelyan, Samvel Farmanyan, Karen Bekaryan and Mihran Hakobyan. Prior to that, the two media outlets were part of the Pan-Armenian Media Group, which was owned by Mikayel Minasyan, Serzh Sargsyan’s son-in-law, former ambassador to the Vatican.
The founders of “Qaryak Media” have close ties with Narek Malyan. Moreover, they often take part in the recent protests together.
And we cannot rule out that the representatives of “Qaryak Media” are behind Mediaport project, contributing to the dissemination of its content through their own media that have a large audience.
Other media outlets
In addition, according to the results of our monitoring, Mediaport posts are most often shared by Analitik.am and Antifake.am websites. It should be noted that Analitik.am belongs to Ani Hovhannisyan, a member of the “VETO” movement. The latter is in close personal relations with Narek Malyan.
The founder of the Antifake.am website is Narek Samsonyan, the president of the “Civic Consciousness” NGO, who is Narek Malyan’s ideologue and has close ties with the latter.
In addition, Mediaport posts are actively shared by Aysor.am, Panorama.am, Armday.am, Yerevan.Today, Blognews.am, Iravunk.com, Hayeli.am and 168.am websites.
In fact, although the available evidence provides solid grounds to claim that the “VETO” movement, led by Narek Malyan, is behind the Mediaport Telegram channel, the active circulation of the “unknown” channel by the above-mentioned media suggests that a whole network is behind Mediaport, filling the information field with false, manipulative or gossipy information through this channel.