How to protect the public from the manipulations of the press conference giver
The content of Nikol Pashinyan’s regular press conference has already been discussed, I have no desire to repeat it. This time I decided not to address the content, but the format of the press conference. To the question of how fair that format is in terms of the equality of the parties. To what extent is the society protected from Nicola’s manipulations by the journalist? And what can neutral and objective media counter it? And it is most manifested not only during pre-election campaigning but also during Nikol’s press conferences. Especially when they are not self-interviews, but actual press conferences.
In their existing format, naturally, no single journalist can overcome the manipulations of the RA Prime Minister. And when we take into account the latter’s many years of political and journalistic experience, all attempts to reveal the truth by asking Pashinyan a question can a priori be considered failed from the beginning. Of course, there may be exceptions, but they do not change the essence of the phenomenon. Because the person sitting in front of a crowded hall has an advantage from the beginning. whatever question is asked to him and whatever clarification is made after receiving the answer, the latter will remain in the status of “winner”. And that will end the “dialogue” between the questioner and the answerer.
By and large, the same thing happens in the National Assembly, where Nicol is asked questions, presumably by more prepared persons. Naturally, this refers to the members of the opposition factions. Despite being more prepared, due to the format, they still cannot debate with Pashinyan as an equal. But in all cases, presumably, they should not be enemies ready to bite each other’s throats, but partners. It’s just that Armenia is not in a position today for an opposition deputy to seek cooperation with an official of the executive or law enforcement systems, to be on the same level and practically be equal.
In practice, there is also the phenomenon when one side of the interview, the questioner, acts not from the position of an equal and cooperating journalist, but from the position of an investigator or even a prosecutor. The best proof of what has been said is the interviews of the Englishman Stephen Sakur, the presenter of BBC “HardTalk”. Especially one of them, the one that was held in August 2020 with Nikol Pashinyan, who holds the post of RA Prime Minister. The reaction of independent and neutral analysts was unequivocal: Pashinyan was humiliated during the entire interview. Of course, as a former journalist, I can testify that the “hard-talking” interview format is unusual and even unacceptable. That is the opposite extreme of what happens in the National Assembly or press conferences.
An intermediate option remains, when the parties to the interview are equal. And listening to each other’s points of view, they try not only to clarify, but also to respond and correct them. But that format, of course, cannot be used during press conferences. Which means that the question “why did the journalists go to the press conference if it was supposed to be exactly like before” will always remain. In contrast to press conferences, in the case of an MP-official dialogue, equality between the former and the latter, regardless of their position, may be legally allowed. And in that case, the deputy holding the primary mandate of the voters can deny the words of the official who does not have such a mandate and remove him wrongly. Which, of course, can be implemented in the conditions of a real democracy, not a Nicholas one.