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Investigative Competition Winners Recognised in Armenia

20 May 2008 | PROJECT NEWS


On 3 May, 2008, the annual Press Freedom Day, an award ceremony was held in Tigran Mets Hall of the Marriott Armenia hotel in Yerevan, Armenia, organised by the European Journalism Centre and Media and Law Institute.  It was part of their cooperation on the two-year Journalism Practices Enhancement Project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to recognise the outstanding achievements in the initial Investigative Journalism competition held among eight leading Armenian universities. 

Local journalists, NGO representatives, media agency directors, heads of universities and faculty members, and students participated in the awards ceremony. Local sponsors of the competition and the ceremony were also in attendance, which included “Yerevan FM” radio company, “Yerevan” Monthly Magazine, “Defense” law firm, “Karkunov” candy production factory, “MEXX” clothes shops “Noyan Tapan” beverage shops, and “Asoghik” publishing house. 

The participating journalism students, who represented eight universities, carried out a 30-day mock investigation of a complicated story on trafficking, murder and corruption. The story started when a bartender was “killed” in a hotel called “Avocado”. The bartender had secretly taped the conversations of his elite customers for months. 

Throughout their investigation the journalism students conducted interviews with the story characters. They decrypted secret codes. They researched print and electronic media as well as academic sources. Adhering to the competition deadline, journalism students published their findings in “press articles”, which were presented at a mock press conference on 1 May. 

While the journalism students were actively engaged in their “investigation”, the law student participants were simultaneously trying to ensure the legal safety of the teams of their own universities, providing legal counselling on media law. After publication of the mock stories, some of the law students brought mock law suits against the journalism students. Other law students defended the journalists through the court system. 

The moot court hearings also took place on 1 May. On 3 May, in the presence of all invitees, the very last secrets of the mock story were disclosed together with the names of the best journalism teams and the best law students. Awards and prizes were given though a variety of nominations. 

Josh La Porte, project executive from theEJC, opened the ceremony by commending the hard work put in by all of the student teams. He specifically pointed out the significance of having the ceremony on Press Freedom Day. This was followed by a display of the video film “How it all happened”, prepared by journalist Mariam Barseghyan on the detective story and the details of this two-month competition. During the ceremony speeches were made by Yerevan State University journalism faculty professor, candidate of philological science, journalist Lilik Stepanyan, doctor-nutritionist Vardanoush Petrosyan, the author of the competition Karen Andreasyan, and “De Volkskrant” daily newspaper journalist Bert Lanting from the Netherlands.  

The following awards were given: 

The nomination for “The Best Question” at a press conference was awarded to a student from Yerevan State University, for “The Best Answer” to a student from Acharyan University and for “The Best Presentation” to a student of Russian-Armenian Slavonic University. In the nominations for “The Best Claim Brief”, “The Best Response Brief”, “The Best Defender of the Press Victim”, and “The Best Media Defender” the board of respected Armenian lawyers selected as winners four students: two from Armenian-Russian Slavonic University, one from Northern University and one from Acharyan University. The nomination for “The Best Photo Journalist” was given to “Galik” University team. The nomination for “The Most Conscientious Journalist” was given to “Anania Shirakatsy” University team. “Northern” University team won the prize for “The Most Law-Binding Journalist”. The nomination for “The Best Article” was awarded to Yerevan State University team. The Award for “The Best Investigative Journalist” was given to “Hrachya Acharyan” University team. The top prize and overall winner of the “Investigative Journalism and Media Law” Competition (2008) was the team from the Armenian-Russian Slavonic University. 

Students received various prizes including annual subscription to the most popular Armenian Monthly Magazine, interview recorders, photojournalist quality digital photo cameras, two-month paid internships at local media, and media study trip invitations to the Netherlands.

Enhancing Journalistic Practices in Armenia
Through this project, the EJC sought to improve the Armenian education framework devoted to law and journalism. Its aim - encourage the development of a training programme that emphasises investigative and ethics-based practices, addressing issues such as freedom of speech and freedom of information.