The Council of Public Broadcaster (CPB) recently issued a statement in response to a letter from the Human Rights Defender stating that the ombudsman’s publications were ignored or not covered in the releases of the Public Television’s “News” program.
Among other arguments, the CPB also addressed the contradictory statements of the Human Rights Defender and MoD in October of last year.
“The Defender blames the “News” for the fact that the editorial office published, for example, the official messages of the Ministry of Defense, which refute the Defender’s statements. It should be reminded that broadcasting official messages is a requirement of the law for Public TV. At the same time, the data obtained through the fact-finding activities of the Human Rights Defender are also considered credible. ՄԻՊ-ի արձանագրումները և «Լուրերի» լուսաբանումը չեն կարող նույնացվել, դրանք տարբեր խնդիրներ են լուծում»,- մասնավորապես, ասված էր ՀՀԽ-ի հայտարարության մեջ (բոլոր ընդգծումները մերն են – խմբ․)։ There is a contradiction of different views on a sensitive issue, which the “News” editorial office cannot objectively verify, and it is not obliged to report both, contradicting itself. Therefore, the editorial office chooses the most reliable source of information in its opinion, because it deals with mass perceptions and is responsible for the consequences of publication. The ombudsman’s records and the coverage of the “News” cannot be identified, they address different issues,” reads the statement of the CPB (all the highlights are ours -edited).
Couldn’t the editorial office objectively verify?
It should be reminded that in October of last year, the Human Rights Defender warned that the Azerbaijani armed forces, which invaded Gegharkunik region in May, were not going to leave their positions, moreover, they had carried out serious fortifications, aiming to stay there for a long time.
In response to the ombudsman’s alarm, the Ministry of Defense announced that those allegations did not correspond to reality and were exaggerated.
While covering this topic, the Public TV presented only the refutation of the Ministry of Defense.
In this regard, the CPB states in its clarification that the “News” editorial office could not objectively verify the authenticity of the allegations.
Meanwhile, in order to see the real picture in between the Ombudsman-MoD “shooting” the Fact Investigation Platform visited the mentioned parts of Gegharkunik region in those days and found out that the Azerbaijani armed forces had carried out large-scale engineering and fortification works and accumulated resources. It was obvious that there was no intention to leave the positions in the near future.
It turns out the “News” editorial office “could not objectively verify” what we had checked having incomparably greater resources and opportunities, including regional correspondents,
Wasn’t the editorial office obliged?
In the same paragraph, the CPB stated that “the “News” editorial office is not obliged to report both (the Ombudsman’s and MoD’s views-ed.) contradicting itself.”
Here, the CPB’s assessment of the working style of Public TV is also manipulative.
In the clarification, the Council itself acknowledges that the statements of both the Ministry of Defense and the Human Rights Defender are official and credible. While in the same document, the Council states that the broadcasting of official messages is a legal requirement for the Public TV.
In other words, according to the statement of the CPB, the Public TV is obliged to broadcast the official announcements, but it broadcast only the refutation of the Ministry of Defense, so as not to contradict itself. However, Public TV in this case was not expressing an opinion, but was only a broadcaster of two official announcements, therefore, despite the substantive contradiction in them, the coverage could not in any way mean that Public TV contradicts itself.
Moreover, Article 22 of the Law on Audiovisual Media clearly states that the public broadcaster is governed by the principles of objectivity, democracy, impartiality, diversity, pluralism, the right to freedom of expression, conscience, thought, religion and belief as well as creative freedom.
Presenting the views of not all parties on the topic by the “News” would be understandable if there were several contradictory claims. However, in this case we are dealing with only two official bodies with different claims, therefore, in order to ensure impartiality and diversity, the Public TV had to present the disposition of the Ombudsman.
Moreover, in the specific case under discussion, the ombudsman was the first to raise the issue, thus in journalistic terms, the ombudsman’s publication was the reason for the information, and the Ministry of Defense’s response was only a refutation of the Ombudsman’s statement.
Conflict of interest
It is noteworthy that Vahagn Tevosyan, a member of the Council of Public Broadcaster, who is the husband of Lusine Barseghyan, the director of Public Information and Analytical Programs, participated in the decision-making in this case.
In fact, Tevosyan took part in making a decision, which actually protected the actions of the organization headed by his family member.
We contacted Vahagn Tevosyan to get clarification. He confirmed that he had participated in the decision-making of the CPB on this issue and did not consider that it contained a conflict of interest.
“I am a member of the council, I am obliged to do it, either defend, or criticize it, or reprimand it, or draw a conclusion. Well ․․․ I mean, you’re fishing in troubled waters, my friend, anyway. No, there is no conflict of interest, because I did not discuss that issue with my wife. We do not discuss anything at all, because her institutional head is the executive director,” Tevosyan answered.
Meanwhile, according to Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Program Manager of the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, in this case there is obviously a conflict of interest. “It is definitely a conflict of interest if he (Vahagn Tevosyan – ed.) also signed that statement.”
And what is a conflict of interest?
Pursuant to Article 33 of the Law on Public Service, being guided by the personal interests of himself/herself or a person affiliated with him/her by a person holding a position means to act or make a decision within his/her authority (including participation in decision-making in a collegial body) which is legal in itself, but it leads or contributes or can reasonably lead or contribute to the improvement of the property or legal status of him/her or a person affiliated with him/her.
Subsequently, there is a reasonable suspicion of a conflict of interests that Vahagn Tevosyan immediately, without reservations, participated in the decision-making of the CPB, which was directly related to his wife’s activities. Because, if we presumably the CPB’s statement draw a conclusion that Public TV really ignored the Ombudsman’s statements or presented them selectively, it could have had negative consequences for his wife, the director of news and analytical programs, in the form of, for instance, some disciplinary penalty or even dismissal.