The U.S. government is funding a health website in Armenia that has published misinformation about COVID-19, according to the British investigative online publication openDemocracy.
In its May 28 report, openDemocracy said the most-read article on the website medmedia.am in May is a piece taken from a local Facebook page calling on people not to receive any potential COVID-19 vaccination.
The article — which has 131,000 views and 28,000 social-media likes, a large number for a country of less than 3 million people — claimed such vaccination is part of a conspiracy by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his health foundation.
The second-most read article falsely claims that relatives of an Armenian man who died of a heart attack were offered money to sign a document saying he succumbed to COVID-19, openDemocracy reported.
It said other content describes COVID-19 as a “fake pandemic.”
A disclaimer on medmedia.am website says that it has been “funded through a Department of State Public Affairs Section grant” but that its articles “do not necessarily reflect” the views of the U.S. government.
The website was launched in 2019 by the local nongovernmental organization Armenian Association of Young Doctors.
The association, led by urologist Gevorg Grigorian, received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan through a State Department program designed to promote transparency and public education.
The grants are worth up to $24,000, according to the U.S. Embassy’s website.
According to openDemocracy, Grigorian has openly expressed anti-LGBT views and has connections with the far-right VETO party.
Few of the articles on medmedia.am have bylines and the most popular are opinion pieces, most of which are republished Facebook posts.
The website also contains factual coronavirus updates from Armenia and around the world.
Armenian health authorities have warned that misinformation surrounding the coronavirus and a future vaccine is dangerous and could impede the country’s response to the pandemic.