Member of fact check team at Media Initiatives Center
In the morning of July 14, a number of media outlets wrote that the actor, Honored Artist of the Republic of Armenia, Rudolf Ghevondyan had passed away. The news was fake and it was not the first time that a celebrity had been pronounced dead in Armenian media publications.
Rudolf Ghevondyan is still struggling for life
Aysor.am, Tert.am, Yerkir Media, Asekose.am and many other websites spread the news about Ghevondyan’s death. The news was accompanied by Ghevondyan’s biographical information, and Facebook users wrote messages of condolence.
It soon became clear that the news was false. It was denied by members of the Ghevondyan family, as well as Ani Nersisyan, Media and Public Relations Officer of the Gabriel Sundukyan National Academic Theater.
The news stories were followed by publications denying the information, quoting Ghevondyan’s son’s post, “My father is still alive. Please do not spread false information. He is seriously ill, in a coma, and is struggling for his life.”
Aravot.am changed the title from “Deceased Actor Rudolf Ghevondyan” to “Rudolf Ghevondyan is in a Coma.”
The denial also was spread in Facebook groups and pages. For example the MY STEP page (which, even though it is using the “My Step” alliance logo and name, is not the official source on the Facebook platform).
Misinformation about death is not being spread for the first time
This is not the first time that the Armenian media reports on unconfirmed death. For example, in June 2013 the Armenian media reported the death of Nobel Prize laureate Nelson Mandela, referring to The Guardian.
Probably Tert.am, Gala TV, ILur.am and other websites had confused the well-known British newspaper The Guardian with the website The Guardian Express. Mandela was alive during the dissemination of that information. Due to the false news, his daughter called journalists “vultures.”
Only a month later, on July 30, the media reported on the death of host Mark Saghatelyan. Saghatelyan was taken to the hospital in extreme conditions, but on the day of the news being spread, he was alive.
At that time Siranush Martirosyan, deputy director of Nairi Medical Center, had to urge the media not to spread misinformation about the death. “Please note that Mark’s relatives are also reading these stories. We kindly answer all calls, please call us and check before publishing information,” as quoted from Yerkir.am.