Russian TV in Armenia: To be or not to be?

    ANALYTICS  27 September 2022 - 11:17

    Huseyn Safarov

    Armenia again faces a choice that it does not really have a priori. As a matter of fact, this is what pushes political forces to use various disguises in order to create an illusion of an alternative. As a result, there is nothing but cheap wordplay. This time too, the Armenians have decided "to show their will", their "choice" and to give up on Russian television.

    The Head of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech Ashot Melikyan stated that "the format of the Russian TV channels does not correspond to the basics of journalism, it is propaganda, which pursues political goals, ignoring the public interest in receiving objective and reliable information". As an argument, he spoke of the not-so-large protest in the Armenian capital against the electricity price hike by "Electric Yerevan", which was presented on Russian television as at least a 'colour revolution'.

    I never thought I would be an apologist for the Russian media, but in this case, one can understand the television editors. There have been so many protests in Armenia recently that even the participants themselves do not always understand what they are protesting about.

    Melikyan reminded Russian TV reporters of the somewhat forgotten "Sasna Tsrer seizure of a police regiment in July 2016", accusing them of "negative reporting" this time too. As is well known, a policeman was killed in the attack by the radical group Sasna Tsrer, but for the "defender of the word", this is the positive moment that Moscow presented in the wrong perspective – that is, negatively.

    Moreover, this is a long tradition of Russian propaganda, which runs counter to the interests of Armenia, the media expert believes. "Decades ago, Soviet television negatively covered the Karabakh movement, which was presented as a movement of separatists, blackshirts, which cannot be taken seriously and allowed to develop," Melikyan says.

    Melikyan is being sly when talking about Soviet television, which allegedly "covered the Karabakh movement negatively." The Moscow media network is still almost entirely controlled by Armenian lobbyists. Suffice to recall the editor-in-chief of RT TV channel since 2005, the international news agency Russia Today since 2013, and Sputnik news agency Margarita Simonyan to understand that this champion of rights was instructed by the government to ramp up anti-Russian sentiments.

    Another accusation by the Armenian media expert is that Kremlin propaganda allegedly intends to spoil Armenia's relations with Georgia and Ukraine. With all the ambiguous attitude toward the Russian media, however, it is impossible not to admit that Armenia absolutely does not need anyone to spoil relations with its neighbors and not only. Sometimes it's amazing how masterfully it manages to do this.

    Meanwhile, it is Azerbaijan that has a right to raise claims against Russian media. But not Armenia. It is Baku that for years has been an object of attacks by Russian journalists, dancing to the tune of non-Armenian duduk. Although it is still common to hear anti-Azerbaijani narratives since 2020 a certain process of revision of priorities in the Russian media network has started. And in connection with the war in Ukraine, the Moscow press has completely softened toward Baku. But this is not the merit of the Russian media, but only the geopolitical reality. Let us assume that Baku became profitable for Russia. And due to Yerevan's constant anti-Russian attacks, the Russian media have become even more favorable to Azerbaijan. "C'est la vie," as Macron's compatriots say.

    By the way, despite his claims, Melikyan admits that the situation is hopeless. In his view, it would be unwise to ban or block Russian TV channels in the current political climate in Armenia. "This would cause discontent with Russia, whose authorities are reverent about opportunities to broadcast in foreign countries and to disseminate the Russian language. In these geopolitical realities, it is dangerous to strain relations with the Kremlin, which at least gives tacit consent to Azerbaijan's 'aggression' (quotes - ed.) against Armenia," he warns with frank envy.

    In his opinion, Armenian laws can prevent the spread of propaganda, but Armenia, because of its vulnerability, is forced to look back at the Kremlin. Otherwise Russian TV channels in Armenia "would face the same fate as in the Baltic States, Georgia and Ukraine".

    Melikyan's sometimes tortuous speech leads to a conclusion that Armenia, as always, follows the proverb "honey is sweet, but the bee stings." In reality, it has again, as always, become a "victim" of the boomerang effect. In other words, Armenia got what it fought for. And judging by the fact that Melikyan is not the first one in this country to complain on Russian media lately, it really hurts. But Yerevan cannot afford the luxury of blocking Russia's media sources. Therefore Melikyan and his ilk, like the character from the "Aladdin's Magic Lamp" movie, have only to convince themselves and others that a dream is not a dream...


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