Ani Samsonyan, a member of the “Bright Armenia” Faction at the National Assembly, stated the aforementioned during her remarks on the margins of the 18th Winter Meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE PA), in the Austrian capital city of Vienna, at the session of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.
In her address, the Armenian MP reflected on the fight against disinformation and the latter’s perils.
“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, along with the improvement of information technology and web-based capabilities, the circulation of misleading usernames and fake news by their owners have become a serious issue for societies and states,” she noted. “This is a global challenge, on the one hand, to obtain, search and share information, and on the other hand to realize the right to freedom of expression and speech.
“It should be noted that the presence of fake news greatly distorts democratic processes, disorients society, spreads hatred, intolerance and misleads mass media.
“Journalists often fall into the trap of fake news looking for operative, inquisitive and scandalous news and therefore sometimes lose the confidence of their audience.
“Due to the lack of basic media-literacy skills, people are not used to checking the authenticity of information by comparing it to other sources, paying attention to dates and becoming a means of spreading the ‘news.’
“The problem is increasing in crisis and emergency situations when people are looking for information in panic, the risk for disorientation and wrong decision-making become more actual.
“The Internet gives an opportunity to creators and distributors of fake news to avoid responsibility and to act without strict technical obstacles and any legal consequences.
“This has become a public and state security issue and a globally discussed subject among international organizations.
“I must state that it results into the development of a dangerous tendency. Many tend to believe that we need consistent struggle against disinformation, and the state should take appropriate measures in this direction.
“This discourse is also available in Armenia nowadays.
“After the recent political developments, the Armenian society, which protects the values declared by the revolution see a danger of distorting objective events, making false alarms and diminishing efforts to establish democracy in Armenia. This is especially related to the media both as a news user and newsmaker.
“At the same time, it is important to realize that the proposed fight against fake news can become a tool in the hands of the government to impose restrictions on the mass media and promote the establishment of censorship.
“This will allow officials to find legal means to interfere in the work of media and/or outlets, hide essential information for the public and unwanted information to the government and hack the media mission as a fourth power.
“The careless struggle against fake news can threaten the civil society to express its opinion freely, to criticize and express its position. This may lead to a situation where any entity can be prosecuted and charged for supervising the work of the government.
“At the level of public discussion, there are attempts to find national legal mechanisms and procedures to defend against misinformation, but at the same time, we realize that it may lead to censorship.
“The media is free in Armenia and we exert our effort to avoid dangerous precedents. The mission of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian questions and the OSCE Observation Mission is also important.
“I am sure, we will find the best solutions without any haste together.
“I am also glad to inform you that the newly elected National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and Public Affairs has been re-opened in Armenia and it is ruled by the two oppositional powers in President and Vice President levels. This means we have the full authority to oversee the work of the Government and raise issues related democracy and human rights without any constraints.”