U.S.-funded Armenian website spreading COVID-19 misinformation in country
The study by openDemocracy, one of Britain’s news portals, revealed that the website, Medmedia.am, launched by the grants allocated by the U.S. Department of State following the 2018 velvet revolution in Armenia with the aim of “promoting democracy”, is spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in Armenia.
On May 28, 2020, openDemocracy and The Guardian newspaper published articles (https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/us-money-armenia-misinformation-covid-vaccines/ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/28/us-funding-website-spreading-covid-19-disinformation#maincontent) on this issue.
According to the study by openDemocracy, Medmedia.am publishing news articles on nutrition and dental health claims that vaccines currently being developed are actually “biological weapons” and dead patients’ relatives in Armenia are offered money to sign a document saying the death was caused by COVID-19. The study notes that such news articles have many views.
Medmedia.am was established by a controversial person named Gevorg Grigoryan, who is also the founder of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors. It is reported that Grigoryan, who is connected to far-right activists in Armenia, criticizes the government’s policy on healthcare, particularly on vaccines, and is known for his tough attitude towards homosexuality.
The British news portal stressed that Medmedia.am was established with money from the Democracy Commission Small Grants program, awarded to the NGO by the US embassy in Armenia last year. These grants, intended to “promote democracy”, are worth up to $50,000 a year. The U.S Department of State declined to comment on this issue.
In his interviews with The Guardian and openDemocracy, Grigoryan said he is not acting against the virus vaccine and the news articles published by Medmedia.am are not fictitious. He said that the published articles are not fake, but personal opinions. Grigoryan confessed to establishing the news website on the basis of the grants allocated by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.
“On 28 May, Armenia had had just over 8,200 coronavirus cases to date – but this number has almost quadrupled from around 2,200 at the start of May. Infections are rising, and on 25 May the country reported a single-day record of 452 new cases. Officials fear that conspiracy theories could impede the country’s COVID-19 response – and its recovery. The country already saw a drop in childhood vaccination rates in 2019 as anti-vax theories spread before the onset of coronavirus. Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said that if the anti-vaccine campaign continues at the same pace, Armenia will criminalize it,” openDemocracy added.