Comment by Yerevan Press Club
At the end of last week we once more witnessed the myth creation by media. The leader of the Armenian Pan-National Movement, the former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian apparently blurted out something, “Taregir” Internet daily (update of January 17, 2002) echoed this, having seasoned the article titled “Boris, You Are Wrong!” by unsuitable theorizing on ethical matters, and the host of “A1” + press” TV program ("A1+" TV company) conveyed the “hoax” to thousands of viewers.
Arzumanian/“Taregir”/“A1” + press” maintain that the trip of a group of Armenian journalists (including the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian) to Turkey a few months ago and the recent visit of four Turkish journalists to Armenia (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 12-18, 2002) was initiated, moreover, financed (?!) by the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission. For this reason it is not for Boris Navasardian to judge the effectiveness of the Commission above.
We apologize to the readers in advance for the excessive details to be narrated herein, but evidently the time has come to clarify the question of such immense concern to the press: how related are the activities of the Commission, abolished in late last year and the contacts between the journalists of Armenia and Turkey?
First – the trips to Turkey. In 2001 YPC representatives visited Turkey three times: once to participate in a conference organized by the German Friedrich Naumann and Friedrich Ebert Foundations, and twice – under the project funded by the OSI Network Media Program. The representatives of these organizations know about the Reconciliation Commission from the press at best. Moreover, the German Foundations initiated a conference series on the conflicts in South Caucasus (including the last Istanbul meeting) in as far back as 1998, and the trilateral (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey) project supported by OSI is nothing but an initiative of Yerevan Press Club and “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan, born in June, 2000. Thus, the visits of Armenian journalists to Turkey were scheduled long before the Reconciliation Commission was formed.
The fantasies and the ability to freely travel in time of Mr. Arzumanian, who claims having personally proposed the names of the journalists for these visits when still a Commission member, may be a true object of envy. In order not to transform the whole story into an anecdote, however stimulating the announcements by the gentleman above were, we will allow ourselves to seriously reiterate our principle: Yerevan Press Club does check its initiatives and does discuss the participants for its projects, but with colleagues only and never with representatives of the political world.
The time has come to refer to the visit of Turkish journalists to Armenia. This was the first event of YPC in cooperation with the Center for Global Peace. This U.S. organization provides support to a number of initiatives aimed at normalizing the relations between Armenia and Turkey, and Armenia and Azerbaijan. It also supported the activities of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission. Yet in no way does it mean that the journalistic project was “initiated” and “financed” by the Commission. The Center for Global Peace contacted YPC and its partners in Azerbaijan, then in Turkey, and offered cooperation which we gladly accepted, all the more so, because we were offered absolute freedom in determining the priorities of our work and the selection of program participants. Obviously, the abolishment of the Reconciliation Commission in late 2001 in no way impeded the start of the journalistic project. By the way, the same Center assisted the very successful concerts of Armenian musician Jivan Gasparian in Turkey. He is quite a popular musician in Istanbul today (no exaggerations are made), and it is hard to overestimate the significance of this success for the further improvement of the dialogue between Armenia and Turkey. Does Mr. Arzumanian intend to arrogate this success to himself, too?
We advocate the dialogue between Armenia and Turkey on all levels, whether this is culture, journalism or politics and diplomacy. We hope that the relative fiasco with the Commission will be a good lesson and will enable to show a more considerate approach to the format and content of working on the political level in future. We also hope Armenia will be represented in this difficult dialogue only by those people who are able to bear the responsibility for their words and actions.
Next – the media. We deliberately left the information in “Taregir” and “A1” + press” unanswered at first and waited for a week, hoping that the publication authors might want to find out who is “wrong”, Alexander or Boris, in this issue, so burning for the journalistic community. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues prefer the myths to real facts.