On January 7, the VETO Initiative released a video titled “Soros supporters in the Armenian Government”, referring to those currently holding public office who have somehow been linked to Open Society Foundations (OSF).
According to the report, those affiliated with the “Soros Foundation” have levers of power. “The Soros supporters have significant representation in the executive, legislative, judicial, and law enforcement agencies,” the video says.
However, the study by the Fact Investigation Platform revealed that the video was full of false and misleading information.
It is noteworthy that the video containing a number of inaccuracies was also broadcast on Armnews TV.
About individuals and organizations that received funding from Open Society Foundations
All organizations that received a grant from OSF at least once are presented as “Soros supporters” in the video, despite the fact that many of them also received funding from other foundations and sometimes had several other donors at the same time (e.g. Bridge of Hope, Transparency International, Imagine Center, etc.).
Moreover, the author of the video attributes the proceeds of these organizations to specific individuals (e.g. Arevik Anapiosyan, Marianna Grigoryan, Zaruhi Batoyan), regardless of their role in that organization. This is a strange approach given the fact that there are dozens of employees in these organizations.
In addition, the author of the video provides incomplete information without disclosing the purpose of the grants. For example, Marianna Grigoryan, who is mentioned in the video as sister of Minister of the Environment Erik Grigoryan, is Head of Umbrella Journalists’ International Network NGO. The network includes the MediaLab.am website and the Daphne project. The grant justification states that the funding is provided to break the discriminatory discourse in the media that is having a profound effect on the public and to challenge existing stereotypes.
The video mentions Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Zaruhi Batoyan as a member of the Bridge of Hope organization. Batoyan worked for the NGO for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Youth with Disabilities in 1999-2017. The organization received a grant, for example, to implement an inclusive education program in Armenia to make inclusive education accessible to children with disabilities and children with special needs.
Next comes the name of Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Gemafin Gasparyan, who founded and headed Boon Foundation in 2013-2019, which still operates Boon TV online scientific channel, the Bonus virtual educational platform, as well as the Detector analytical website. Boon TV is the first Armenian science-based online TV. Its mission is to promote the formation of a society that uses science and art products. It has received grants from Open Society Foundations for topic-based lectures for many years. For example, the goal of the grant in 2015 was to create 20 online lectures/videos on education development.
Interestingly, the authors made a mistake when calculating the amount Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Arevik Anapiosyan received from OSF, and presented a smaller amount, namely, $ 108,000. According to the official website of the Open Society Foundations – Armenia, the organization co-founded by Anapiosyan, the Institute for Public Policy, received grants worth $ 213,120 in 2014-2018. The money was provided to develop the organization in three areas, including the creation of a more powerful expert resource center and the implementation of informal education programs.
The video highlights that many government officials worked in Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center.
“It is noteworthy that the overwhelming majority of Soros supporters worked at the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, which has been founded and directly funded by the Soros Foundation” the report says.
However, it is noteworthy that Transparency International was not founded by Open Society Foundations. According to the Center’s official website, the Regional Development Center NGO, founded in 2000, was accredited in 2001 by Transparency International’s global anti-corruption movement as a national branch. Open Society Foundations is not the sole sponsor of both the parent organization and the Armenian office. For example, the Armenian office of the Anti-Corruption Center, in addition to OSI, receives funding from 30 other organizations.
About topics on the agenda of Open Society Foundations
The final part of the video touches on state funding for the “Emotion and Bell” performance and the Mel film. “It turns out that the Soros-supporting minister (meaning Arayik Harutyunyan – ed.) enthusiastically finances some obscure content, somehow promoting a perverse performance and film, but refuses to fund, for example, a film about King Varazdat,” the author concludes.
However, the co-financing of the film “Mel” was approved on May 25, 2019, when Nazeni Gharibyan was Acting Minister of Culture, and Arayik Harutyunyan was appointed Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports on June 1.
As for the suspension of funding for the film about King Varazdat, everything is again not definite. During the period 2014-2018, only Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO received 234,205,000 AMD for the creation of the “Olympionic” animated film. However, the film was never completed. In 2019, the cartoon did not participate in the competition at the National Cinema Center, as the regulations state that projects that have started production phase filming cannot participate in the production phase of the competition (for details see the investigation by Fip.am).
The video claims that “after the Soros supporters came to power, an active campaign and an open struggle against the Armenian Apostolic Church began.” However, it is known that the Armenian Apostolic Church has also received a grant from the Open Society Foundations. In particular, as early as 2010 the Diocese of Armavir received a $ 25,000 grant to organize a summer camp for 130 socially disadvantaged children.
The author of the video also claims that after the revolution there were provocations by LGBT people to accept the Istanbul Convention, including the Shurnukh incident, the discussion of the book “My Body is Personal” and so on.
It should be noted that Armenia had signed the Istanbul Convention back in the days of the previous Republican authorities, meaning that its discussion could not be considered an initiative of these authorities only.
What projects has Open Society Foundations funded in Armenia?
In the end, the presenter also touches upon the ideology of the Open Society Foundations.
“It should be noted that the goal of the Soros supporters is to create a society where the role of the state is reduced, where there are no traditions, values, elements of preserving national identity,” the broadcaster said in a concluding remark.
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to study what projects the Open Society Foundations has funded in Armenia.
Among the grant recipients are Shirak, Yerevan, Vanadzor State Universities, American University of Armenia, Ani Foundation for Armenian Studies for the purposes of development of education and science.
In 2017, they provided a grant to the Republican Scientific Medical Library to boost its operations, technical upgrades, and to attract more visitors.
In the same year Yerevan State Medical University received a grant from Open Society Foundations to organize a training on palliative care.
During different years, Yerevan State University has received grants to develop the YSU Center for Applied Psychology.
Many schools have received funding from OSF to set up computer centers, including Gr. Zohrap School, Vahan Teryan School, etc.
Cultural centers have also received funding from OSF during these years. For example, in 2000, the OSF provided a grant to the Erebuni Museum to digitize and publish the “Karmir Blur” photographic materials.
The National Library has also received a grant to create an online catalog.
Thus, the video produced by the VETO initiative, which was also broadcast on Armnews TV, is full of inaccuracies and manipulative wording that mislead the viewers.