Friday, May 29 2020 15:07
Karina Manukyan

The Guardian: US government is funding a website in Armenia, which is  spreading disinformation about the coronavirus

The Guardian: US government is funding a website in Armenia, which is  spreading disinformation about the coronavirus

ArmInfo.The US government is funding a website, which is spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, including warnings that Armenians ought to  "refuse" future vaccine programmes, this is stated in an article  published on The Guardian's website, titled ''US government is  funding website spreading Covid-19 disinformation''.

According to the article, the website, Medmedia.am, was launched with  the help of a US State Department grant meant to promote democracy,  but instead has been used to promote false information about   Covid-19, according to an investigation by the British news website  openDemocracy. 

Among Medmedia's most popular articles are pieces that have called  Covid-19 a "fake pandemic" and falsely reported that a morgue offered  to pay hundreds of dollars to a dead patient's family if they claimed  the death had been caused by the coronavirus.

The grant was awarded by the State Department to a group called the  Armenian Association of Young Doctors, which launched the website  last year and is led by a controversial doctor called Gevorg  Grigoryan. He has been known for his strong criticism of the  government's health ministry and its vaccine programmes, and has a  history of anti-LGBT statements, including remarks posted on Facebook  in 2014 in which he called for gay people to be burned. Grigoryan,  who has claimed that he is not opposed to vaccinations, has teamed up  with a prominent journalist and lawyer, both with reported both with  reported ties to a far-right party called Veto, to create what they  called a public fact-finding group on the government's response to  the coronavirus outbreak.

This week, the group's official Facebook page claimed that the  government led by prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, had "completely  failed the fight" against coronavirus. Grigoryan said he was not  aligned with a specific political party and denied that Medmedia or  the fact-finding project were political fronts aimed at opposing the  government, the article reads.

The authors of the article state that the State Department declined  to comment on questions about the size of the grant or its review  process. A post on the US embassy's website in Armenia said grants  under the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program - which are worth  up to $50,000 - are awarded on a competitive basis to local NGOs and  are meant to focus on issues like transparency and accountability in  governance, advancing human rights, eliminating corruption, and  enhancing economic growth and development. But the openDemocracy  investigation found that, while Medmedia had published some news  articles, most of its opinion pieces were republished Facebook posts  that spread false information'', the article reads.

Grigoryan told the Guardian that the US embassy in Armenia had  contacted him with "concerns" about op-eds and articles on the site.  But, he said: "I am sure I was able to answer all those questions and  those concerns disappeared. The site is not an anti-vaccine forum."  Asked specifically about the articles, he said that he didn't share  their opinions but said they would not be taken down. "It's not fake  news," he said.  "It's the opinion of a specialist, the opinion of a  doctor, of the head of an NGO. It's an opinion. So it's not fake  news." 

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