YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


PERSPECTIVE

WHAT IS HIDDEN BEHIND BELATEDLY REMEMBERED INTEGRITY

The more immoral the environment is, the more ardor it displays in the “revelation” of vices and “smashing” of those members that have fallen or stumbled – and have thus stopped being dangerous. It is the case when “moralizing” stands not for a wish to purify, but, rather, for the abuse of moral categories together with their complete negligence. The two developments of the past weeks called this truth to mind.

The most vivid of its confirmations were the heated “deliberations” at the Armenian parliament over the withdrawal of “Orinats Yerkir” party from the ruling coalition. The picture was so distressing that in order to save the legislature from the complete public discreditation, one of the deputies suggested that this parliamentary session be kept out of TV air…

A few days before the press-conference of TV journalist Hamlet Ghushian was held, where he made an actual confession of having shot an ordered documentary against the former Chief Commander of Mountainous Karabagh Defense Army Samvel Babayan. The initiator of the press-conference made a public apology to the hero of Karabagh war and expressed his willingness to make a new, impartial film (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 12-18, 2006).

I see no sense in assessing the behavior of Hamlet Ghushian who followed the political agenda of the time when Samvel Babayan had been sentenced for organizing an attempted assassination of the MK President Arkadiy Ghukasian. I think, the attitude of Yerevan Press Club towards “publicity orders” and journalistic “assassinations” is self-evident for the readers of YPC Newsletter. However, the response that some our colleagues made to the press-conference deserves discussion. I would particularly like to single out the opinion made by some colleagues that Hamlet Ghushian must give up journalism as such…

This categorical “sentence” raises a whole number of questions. Did the colleagues, who tried on the judge gown, think for a second which society has a tradition of banning the exercise of a profession? I may be answered here that a “voluntary” retreat was meant, basing on “moral principles”, and not as a mandatory sanction. However, both the former USSR and other gendarme states often did not need to exercise administrative intervention: the “collegiate” communities used to start such severe persecution of its unwanted members that deprived them of any choice. And I would hate to become a witness of a similar situation, even if this applies to a journalist who has committed a very strong sin in terms of professional ethics.

One can recall here the appeal YPC and other journalistic associations made to boycott “Or” newspaper after its vulgar and undoubtedly ordered attack on a leading Armenian journalist (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 9-15, 2002). Yet, see the difference, as the saying goes: on the one side there is the appeal on colleagues to refrain from cooperation with a newspaper that went contrary to professional norms and continued to blackmail the peers even after a condemnation by the journalistic community, and on the other side there are the attacks on a person who made a public repentance several years after his improper action.

This raises the second question. Why didn’t the denouncers of today publicly criticize Hamlet Ghushian at the time his film was aired on TV? I do not think this is a matter of pure lack of spirit – Samvel Babayan was a prisoner then and is now gaining weight in the political landscape of Armenia. The reasons run deeper: they are in the tolerance of the journalistic community towards what is happening in media, including the ordered, paid stories and other phenomena that disgrace the profession.

Those who imply that the TV journalist is not good enough to share profession with them are witnesses of similar “sins” of their peers from the same editorial office nearly every day. However, these deeds fail to receive even a friendly reprimand, to say nothing of public condemnation! In exactly the same manner, none of the colleagues around Ghushian expressed their indignation at the time the film was made and aired. Then, six years ago, “Political Solitaire” was often recalled as an example of journalistic “assassination” – a TV program that had gone on air on the eve of presidential elections in… 1996. I am in no way trying to compare the works or motivations that made their authors to openly speak about what had been done after some time. Yet both had to go through “adamant”, and, what is more important, “timely” criticism!

This belated and quite selective response towards the challenges of fair journalism resulted in a situation today when the community takes for granted the imposing from “above” of lists of political and public figures, allowed or disallowed to appear on air, orders of the same origin to close a certain program, instructions of what can and what cannot be said on the air, which events are to be covered with other – very important ones – being neglected. Everyone is aware of this, but prefers to be patient and make no protests. Whereas when one outdated sin is publicized, it immediately turns into a punch bag for all our “professional integrity”. The comparison with a punch bag is also adequate because the inability or unwillingness of the victim to hit back becomes an additional stimulus for the short-lived “advocates of journalistic ethics”.

As opinion polls show, the politicians and journalists are among the professions that the Armenian society has the least trust in. And neither the fervent criticism of “Orinats Yerkir” that for some reason was not made in parliament while the party was at power nor the obstruction of the TV journalist for six-year old film can help to restore this trust.

Boris NAVASARDIAN