Live From Opposition Rally, And More: Election Coverage In Armenia G


VOTE 2013 | 28.02.13 | 13:47

ArmeniaNow reporter

Never before in Armenia has a post-election reality been so close
and so immediate for so many people as during the current political
season in which a number of media have been using the newest live
video streaming technology in covering events.

Early attempts to make live streaming sessions in Armenia were made
still several years ago, but the extensive use of the technology
falls on the current elections in the country that again is seeing
tumultuous post-election developments.

Several news websites have offered their followers a relatively
new opportunity of watching live public rallies, press conferences
and other events happening not only in capital Yerevan, but also in
the regions. producer Gegham Vardanyan says live streaming is a new,
interesting and useful tool for Armenia, which has already created
competition for television to become a real alternative to it.

“The first thing that comes to mind when you speak about live streaming
is the coverage of rallies and post-election developments.

For the websites that have a high profile on the internet and for
internet televisions it is a good opportunity especially during
these days when it is being made the best use of,” says the social
media expert.

According to Vardanyan, internet TV not only provides immediacy in
covering events, but also offers debates and public discussions,
which are almost absent on mainstream media.

Still during the 2008 presidential election, when only few people in
Armenia were active in using social networking websites and blogs and
in general the internet had a low level of penetration in the country,
the main source for news related to the elections and post-election
developments was television, which, however, provided only limited
and selective information that admittedly did not reflect the reality
on the ground. Besides, opposition candidates in the 2008 election
complained about poor television coverage of their campaigns, something
that has changed today.

The Yerevan Press Club, which conducted a monitoring of major
television channels during the election campaign in January-February,
says that in general none of the companies showed a biased attitude
or discrimination against any of the presidential candidates.

Media experts believe that the internet in general and the use of
live video streaming technologies by news websites in particular
have been instrumental in promoting better television coverage of
political and other news and events in Armenia.

“This brings forth some healthy competition, even though in any case
the internet is for a wider audience, while the number of television
channels is limited,” says IT expert and blogger Artur Papyan.

Papyan, who is now involved in the multimedia department of RFE/RL’s
Armenian Service (Azatutyun), a media outlet most actively engaged
in live video streaming in Armenia today, pioneered the use of this
technology for Armenian consumption.

Back in 2008, when Armenia was still recovering from a post-election
shock that followed the deadly dispersal of an opposition rally and
a period of the state of emergency declared in the country amid a
continuing crackdown on the opposition, Papyan together with a fellow
blogger, Onnik Krikorian, were trying to make 10-15-second broadcasts
from opposition rallies with the use of their phones.

Then, again in 2008, the A1 Plus website attempted some live
broadcasts, which, despite their poor quality, still were hailed as
a success.

The high-quality live video streaming in Armenia was first launched
by Azatutyun in February 2011 and within less than a month, during
a single such session from an opposition rally the radio station got
as many as 80,000 views on its website.

“In contrast to other media, Azatutyun is trying to use more innovative
technologies. Our experience shows that people have a great desire to
watch news and events this way, otherwise we would not have had the
audience numbers that we have now,” says Papyan, adding that the peak
of the audience they have had during the current election season was
on February 23, when the officially defeated presidential candidate,
Raffi Hovannisian, went to provinces, and in particular to Gyumri,
as part of his nationwide campaign of protests against the outcome of
the election outcome. Papyan says they had up to 50,000 views during
their live video streaming session from the rally in the second
largest Armenian city.

Today, besides Azatutyun, live video streaming technology is being
actively used also by and A1 Plus. A number of other
websites are also making attempts to master this technology. Some
press clubs also try to make use of live streaming by broadcasting
certain meetings and discussions live.

Yet, in the post-election reality it is demonstrations and rallies
that appear to be of most interest not only to the local audience,
but also for many Armenians now literally watching events in their
homeland from abroad.

Armine Hovhannisyan, a 24-year-old linguist, says she is interested
in the current political developments and often follows them online,
via live video streaming sessions, as it is not always that she can
attend rallies and other events in person.

“This is the best means to learn about the current activities of the
opposition, its future plans, while you can get very little of it
on television,” says Hovhannisyan, who sees it as a big difference
compared to the election and post-election periods five years ago.

The growing internet audience watching events live as they happen
is also seen by many as a kind of ‘restraining’ factor during mass
protests and demonstrations to avoid clashes.

“During the 2011 rallies we were standing with our computers and
cameras in front of police officers. And we want to believe that live
video streaming sessions were one of the factors that helped avoid
clashes then,” says Papyan.