Members of the press are directly participating in the 2012 parliamentary elections. This would seem to be a first for Armenia.
This factor, however, had little impact on how the media in general has covered the election campaign. In general, the media community’s support of these candidates wasn’t channeled via the press.
The participation of members of the press in these elections raises certain ethical questions. For example, should reporters continue to work as such even if they are running as candidates? Does it provide these candidates with a competitive edge or an opportunity to employ their social standing for personal interests? When we view the periodic press through the prism of propaganda, the issue of preserving pres objectivity becomes superfluous.
Nevertheless, the entrance into the race of reporters has instilled the campaign with a certain degree of intrigue. In contrast to the proportional electoral system or the competition of political forces, this time the press hasn’t displayed such a pedantic approach regarding the single-mandate system.
On the one hand, the reason has been the relatively correct process the campaign has taken in this field, despite the two or three incidents of assaults on the candidates or their representatives at the start of the campaign that were widely covered in the press. Overall, the main intrigue in the single mandate electoral process was due to the aggressive campaigning of the reporter/ candidates themselves.
Generally speaking, it was evident that the press had singled out the single mandate electoral system from overall political environment and didn’t seem particularly interested in delving too deeply in the backdoor workings of individual election districts.
The press covered the campaign based on political preferences and leanings; i.e. to the extent necessary in order to propagandize for this or that party or alliance. Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the creation of an inter-party headquarters to fight against electoral violations and their linked manifestations, equivalent alterations were registered in the press.
It can be said that the entire media, began to come down on the right or left sides of the Prosperous Armenia-ARF-ANC tandem. The press, almost in its entirety, took positions around these political changes - a labyrinth of mutual provocations and the intricate webs of intrigue that resulted. The targets of counter-propaganda shifted. Even those forces that were the targets of sharp critique by certain papers began to receive more favored treatment.
The press was more receptive regarding manifestations of personal or group intrigues occurring concurrent with the campaign than to issues of significance to the voters, especially those related to the platforms and program content of the parties, their past track records, the rationality of their promises, and their tactics.
Even though all the political forces presented their individual programs, the press, in general, did not reflect upon them. An exception, perhaps, was the newspaper Yerkir which did a quick comparison of the programs of the parties. This comparison, naturally, displayed the ARF’s program in a favorable light. In any event, even though this comprised a section of the newspaper’s propaganda policy, it at least provided voters an interim opportunity to get acquainted with approaches of the various parties’ to this or that issue or sector.
However, what was especially evident was the focus of the press on the financial status of the candidates, something which in the past was not a big thing. In contrast to the past, this time various candidates in the public eye made a special effort to conceal their assets. This prompted the unprecedented focus of the press. While the press presented the numbers, a more thorough and extensive analysis of what the numbers signified was lacking.
Rare were the attempts of the press to dig deeper and connect the dots, especially when it came to the financial statements of government officials whose meager salaries could not jive with the large amounts of reported revenues and cash holdings.
During this process the press also focused on the theme of the possibility of election violations and faking the election results. This focus was restricted to separate articles about the distribution of bribes and the inconsistencies found in the voter rolls. The fact that these alarms raised as to election bribes were generally never of a specific nature backed by specific facts, at best raised suspicions as to the veracity of the news sources involved.
It was the same situation regarding the coverage of the press on inconsistencies in the voter rolls. The facts presented to back up the claims were few in number or either unconvincing.
In the end, while it is true that public commentary and analysis is still the purview of the press in Armenia today, at least in terms of the electoral process, the media was not able to break out of its shell of superficiality and intrigue-centric coverage.
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