US ends funding for Armenian website that spread COVID-19 misinformation

Answering questions from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Harry Tamrazian about openDemocracy’s investigation, the ambassador said “the website in question was part of a larger grant” to a local organisation that had proposed a project focused on reducing corruption in the healthcare sector. 

Tracy, who was appointed ambassador to Armenia last year, said this grant “was awarded about a year ago and it was only very recently, in early May… that we learned that there was some posting of content that was very problematic”. 

“We contacted the grantee and asked for those posts to be taken down”, she said, but this grantee organisation “felt that this was an issue of free speech”. 

“We felt differently: we felt that free speech has to be balanced also with responsible management of a website,” said Tracy, adding that as a result, “we decided on the basis of seeing these issues to not approve an extension”.

The ambassador said the embassy’s grant ended at the end of May, and that the grantee organisation requested an extension that was not approved. It remains unclear what the value of this grant was, but they can be worth up to $50,000.  

Following openDemocracy’s investigation, Gevorg Grigoryan, founder of the grantee organisation, published a statement saying that Medmedia.am made “the voice of specialists and non-governmental organisations audible”. 

He described the investigation as “a manipulative ‘sensation’ typical of globalists”, and said “the author of the mentioned articles is not an employee of the website, but is the chairman of a public healthcare organisation and a doctor by profession”. 

Rising infections

COVID-19 cases in Armenia have now surpassed 13,000 (as of 8 June) with the prime minister among those recently infected. On Monday this week he announced that he had recovered and will return to his usual work schedule.  

“His own situation really underscores just how this virus can reach any of us,” said the ambassador, who called for a “unified effort” to respond to COVID-19 and said that the US had given $5.4 million to the Armenian government to help. 

“I appreciate how open the prime minister has been,” she added. “I think this is a real hallmark of good leadership in a crisis: communication. If the public loses trust because there’s a sense of hiding information, we’re in big trouble.”

In her interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is also funded with US money, Tracy was also asked about other issues including the current ongoing protests against police brutality that have swept her country. 

“The killing of George Floyd was a shocking event, a tragic event, that has been the source of a lot of pain and anguish,” she said, adding that “peaceful protesting is patriotic” and “leaders need to listen” to communities that need to be heard.

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Claire Provost Tatev Hovhannisyan | Radio Free (2021-11-29T11:54:09+00:00) » US ends funding for Armenian website that spread COVID-19 misinformation. Retrieved from https://www.radiofree.org/2020/06/09/us-ends-funding-for-armenian-website-that-spread-covid-19-misinformation/.
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" » US ends funding for Armenian website that spread COVID-19 misinformation." Claire Provost Tatev Hovhannisyan | Radio Free [Online]. Available: https://www.radiofree.org/2020/06/09/us-ends-funding-for-armenian-website-that-spread-covid-19-misinformation/. [Accessed: 2021-11-29T11:54:09+00:00]
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» US ends funding for Armenian website that spread COVID-19 misinformation | Claire Provost Tatev Hovhannisyan | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/06/09/us-ends-funding-for-armenian-website-that-spread-covid-19-misinformation/ | 2021-11-29T11:54:09+00:00
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