Armenia: Bloggers Attend Presidential Press Conference

On 21 July at a news conference held at the presidential palace to mark the 100th day of the new president's term in office, two bloggers were invited to attend alongside 38 journalists. Allowed to ask one question each, the bloggers were effectively considered as the equals of journalists. In fact, considering that some pro-opposition media weren't invited, those bloggers might even be considered as ‘even more equal’ given that the highest circulation daily in Armenia has a print-run of around 10,000 copies. The precedent was surely set for taking blogs as a medium seriously.

Indeed, it has to be said that such signs were already there given that Serzh Sargsyan had a blog established on his behalf even before he was sworn in as the new president in April. The blog collected several hundred questions from readers on the shaky political situation after the disputed presidential elections held in February and the violent clashes between radical opposition supporters and the police in Yerevan on 1 March. Initiated by Akunamatata_Ser [RU], who remembered that Sargsyan had promised to answer questions from bloggers again on the 100th day of his presidency, around 50 questions were collected.

The blogger reports on the historic occasion.

It turned out that the people on the helms of government actually look after us and even follow us. Today akunamatata_ser and pigh were invited to the presidential palace!!!!!! It turned out the fact that we remember and don't forget the promises to bloggers hasn't slipped the eye of the ‘big brother’

In an excited entry, RealArmenia welcomes the participation of Armenian bloggers in the press conference, noting that “Armenia so far becomes one of the rare country where the bloggers are going to be equal to journalists” and congratulates Sergey Chamanyan (akunamatata_ser) and Tigran Kocharyan (pigh) as a result.

However, not all bloggers welcomed the news and there was also much criticism in the Armenian blogosphere. Pro-opposition blogger Nazarian, for example, remarked that “The invited were palace bloggers serving the needs of the regime. The questions they asked obviously were pro-regime..” Unzipped went further, wondering if “the real intention behind recent close engagements of presidential staff with few pro-government bloggers is to discredit blogs/blogging in the eyes of population, in general, from the beginning, without even allowing their further development.

Tumanyan [RU] takes a more satirical approach and looks forward 70 years with a short story in the best traditions of Orwell's 1984.

Veteran journalist Mark Grigorian [RU] instead initiated a more theoretical discussion on the acceptability of inviting bloggers, i.e. non-professional journalists to a press-conference even if his argument presupposes that journalists in the country maintain a certain degree of professionalism. Grigorian speculates that although the invited bloggers have around the same numbers of readers as some newspapers, they should not be considered as representatives of the mass media.

The blog is not updated regularly (one day a blog might have several entries, on another days – none at all), the blogger might not necissarily be the author of information published on the blog, and the blog might not always contain inormation — we know that often blog entries are just photos or a link to a music video on YouTube, etc.

Hence blogging requires other skills, then those necessary for working in Mass Media. And that was perfectly illustrated on Armenian president's press conference.

Former journalist and media professional Ogostos [RU] was also not impressed.

There is no logic in the appearance of bloggers in a presidential press-conference […]. If presidential spin-doctors consider bloggers full-fledged players in the information field and want to demonstrate their “transparency” by inviting bloggers, they should be aware, that this “transparency” is fully blown-up by the absence of pro-opposition journalists – who are undoubtedly NO LESS FULL-FLEDGED PLAYERS. If the presidential spin-doctors view bloggers as civil-society, they should also invite other members of civil society and call it public consultations or something else, instead of inviting a press-conference.

In response to the wave of criticism, one of those bloggers invited to the press conference — Pigh [RU] — makes some valid points in his defense, saying that he doesn't respect most journalists because of their “unscrupulousness, non-professionalism and venal practices.” Instead, he paints the picture of experienced bloggers being those with no editors slowing down or even preventing certain information from being published.

The blogger says that his motivation to attend the press-conference was to promote blogging and blogosphere, and believes that this objective was achieved. “Take it easy, people,” he tells his critics, summarizing the achievements of the event.

Dear bloggers. It is so cool that we, positionists and oppositionsists, have stepped on the feet of journalists with our blogs. And even with our professionalism. I personally am flattered to see, that the number of my blog's pageviews surpasses 90 percent of printruns of Armenian newspapers. It is great to be able to enter the blog, see a post and be able to express your agreement disagreement (instead of running to the courts and demanding refutation in the newspapers). […] Virtual reality is slowly, but surely stepping on the feet of printed press. Progress, has slowly but surely penetrated here as well.


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