CivilNet, other media outlets call on Pashinyan to hold face-to-face press conferences

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By Mane Berikyan

A group of Armenian news outlets, including CivilNet, issued a statement Sunday calling on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to return “the practice of open communication with the media,” amid concerns that the format of today’s press conference restricts their ability to freely ask questions.

Earlier that day, Pashinyan announced on Facebook he would be holding an online press conference Monday evening to answer questions sent in advance from media outlets and NGOs. His last several press conferences, including the most recent one in January, have been held online due to COVID-19 precautions.

“During those press conferences, the questions sent by the media had been grouped and edited by the prime minister’s staff, as a result of which the contents of the questions were often distorted or some nuances of the questions were lost, and sometimes certain questions were not voiced at all,” read the statement, which was also signed by Aravot Daily, A1+ TV, Fact Investigation Platform, Gala TV, Infocom, MediaLab Newsroom, and Radio Azatutyun. The media outlets labeled Pashinyan’s choice to continue holding press conferences where questions are filtered beforehand “discriminatory, ineffective and contradictory to the core principles of democracy,” arguing that “as a result, the public’s access to reliable news is limited.”

They added that the pandemic-era restrictions that initially prompted Pashinyan to hold press conferences online are now irrelevant.

A different group of nearly 30 media outlets released a separate statement over the weekend saying they will boycott the prime minister’s press conference entirely and calling for him to return to “standard,” in-person news conferences. Aravot Daily, NEWS.am, Panorama.am and Yerkir Media TV are among several news outlets whose leadership joined the boycott. Pashinyan’s news conference will be livestreamed on his official Facebook page Monday at 8 p.m. Yerevan time.