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Public TV on Fire: Top Executives Resign over Leakage of Pre-Aired Test Video Material of Pashinyan

Margarita Gevorgyan, Chief Executive Director of Public TV, Vardan Hakobyan, Manager of the Creative Department, as well as Petros Ghazaryan, head of the News Department of 1TV have all announced of resignation. The round of resignations comes after a public outcry over leakage of video material shot at the Public TV involving Nikol Pashinyan with nothing extraordinary, however edited in a way to mock him.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addressed the nation on April 17 in a live airtime on Armenia’s Public TV (1TV). Public TV company was in charge of the live broadcasting and had an agreement with 8 other national broadcasting TV channels to share the air, including “Armenia TV”, “Shant”, “Mir”, “H2”, “Ar”, “Kentron”, “Yerkir Media”, “5th Channel”. On April 18, fake social media users started sharing video material with Pashinyan’s test speech shot minutes before the live air edited in a way to mock him over coughing. 

Prime Minister’s spokesperson Mane Gevorgyan reacted by characterizing Public TV as ultimately unprofessional in not only failing to oversee the usage of the test shootings that eventually leaked but also sharing the test speech and prep work with the other TV channels and not warning about this. She claimed that there was no way to know that preparatory activities were also on air and shared. In return, Vardan Hakobyan, the person in charge of organizing Prime Minister’s address to the nation and sharing the broadcast with other channels, shot back at Mane Gevorgyan that he had warned “We’re rec!” The Public TV stated that it was investigating whether the leakage took place from its staff and later denied that it happened from within Public TV, alluding that the other TC channels may be implicated.

Margarita Gevorgyan has been the chief of Public TV since 2013 and is known for her ultimate loyalty to the regime of Serj Sargsyan manifested in biased media work and numerous corruption scandals erupted over Public TV in the past. On April 20, 2020 she wrote on her Facebook Page. “The release of the shots taken of Armenia’s Prime Minister minutes before the air is unacceptable to me and I am sincerely upset for this cheap act of violating ethical, partnership principles. In this important phase for the country, also for the development of Public TV, this kind of media vandalism is unforgivable.” Gevorgyan also stressed that she shared responsibility for what had happened and was therefore resigning.

The Public TV Board released a statement on April 21 that Petros Ghazaryan, a well-known TV host managing the News Department of Public TV has also written a letter of resignation. The Board is expressing its regret over what has happened. The Board has appointed Armen Sargsyan, deputy head of the Creative Department as an acting Chief Director, and Ruben Shahinyan, deputy CEO, as acting head of the News Department. A contest will be organized to appoint a new CEO.

Nikol Pashinyan also addressed the nation on his own Facebook page speaking about the pace of the changes that were supposed to come after revolution, the attitude of loyalists to the former regime and corruption and that they failed their chance to change. Failure to “come out of the serj-kocharyan swamp” and “to make radical changes” in the Public TV were the reason why famed oppositional intellectual, film director Tigran Paskevichyan resigned last year in July from his post of Advisor to Public TV CEO accusing the head of the Public TV and Radio Company Chairman, Ara Shirinyan of nepotism over Margarita Gevorgyan.