YPC Weekly Newsletter

2004


“Ethics of the Interethnic Coverage”

YPC GENERAL MEETING

On April 21 a regular General Meeting of Yerevan Press Club was held. At the meeting the reports of the YPC Board (presented by YPC President Boris Navasardian) and Auditing Commission (presented by the Commission Chairman Mher Davoyan) were heard, and the YPC President, Vice President, members of Board, Council and the Auditing Commission were elected. At the session the Executive Director and the composition of YPC Commission on Professional Ethics were approved. The renewed composition of these bodies is presented at the YPC web site in “Structure” section.

The General Meeting also resolved to amend the YPC Statutes, as well as discussed a number of other issues.

INTERETHNIC TANGLE IN THE MEDIA MIRROR

On April 16-18 in Tsaghkadzor a seminar “Ethics of the Interethnic Coverage” was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club and Friedrich Ebert Foundation and brought together representatives of media, non-governmental (including journalistic) organizations, state structures of Armenia.

The urgent issues in the very complicated relations within the region were viewed primarily in the context of their media coverage. The newest history of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, plentiful in interethnic conflicts and tense inner political situations, makes the protection of the journalists, working in the “hot spots”, even more important. It is the discussion of what are the legal guarantees of this protection in the documents of the Council of Europe, where the states of the South Caucasus are members, that the seminar opened with. The tasks of the press at this stage of the regional and international relations, the need to preserve the “make no harm” principle when covering the interethnic issues, how Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani media follow the norms of professional ethics and what stereotypes they use when speaking about interethnic problems – all these subjects caused the heated debate among the meeting participants. At the seminar the results of the media monitoring studies on the coverage of the Karabagh problem and interrelations Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkey, administered by Yerevan Press Club jointly with the partners from other countries of the region since 2001, were presented. The different attitudes expressed at the event and the vivid emotional background came to reconfirm how complicated the interethnic South Caucasus tangle is and the significant responsibility to be shouldered by the “fourth estate” in untying it.

JOURNALISTS INJURED ADDRESSED THE GENERAL PROSECUTOR

On April 16 “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily published “The Notification on the Crime Committed”, sent on the previous day, April 15, by the Chief Editor of the publication Nikol Pashinian to the RA General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian. The letter tells about the beating of “Haikakan Zhamanak” correspondent Haik Gevorgian during the opposition rally in the early morning of April 13 (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 9-15, 2004). In the opinion of the newspaper, the Deputy Head of RA Police Hovhannes Varian is guilty of committing the crime.

Proceeding from the narration of the events of the night by Haik Gevorgian and basing on the fact of physical and moral damage incurred by the journalist, the daily solicits to institute criminal proceedings against Hovhannes Varian by Articles 164 (“Impeding the legitimate professional activity of journalist”) and 309 (“Exceeding the official authority”) of the RA Criminal Code and bringing him to account.

On April 16 a similar address but referring to the Head of the Police of Center Community of Yerevan Hovhannes Tamamian was filed with the General Prosecutor by the correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper Mher Galechian, beaten and arrested in the early morning of April 13. In the piece “How It Happened”, published on April 15 in “Haikakan Zhamanak”, the journalist gave a detailed description of the act of violence and his illegal detainment. In the letter to the General Prosecutor Mher Galechian mentioned that the people who attacked him took his bag containing a recorder, photo camera, owned by “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” Editor, 300 thousand drams, the round seal of “Ogostos” press dissemination agency and documentations of the public organization “Shamiram”. According to the journalist, when he was released from the cell of preliminary detainment where he had spent 16 hours, the bag was not returned to him. Galechian demanded to hold Hovhannes Tamamian accountable for impeding with the exercise of a professional activity by the journalist, for illegal detainment and for appropriation of his property.

It should be noted that the RA Criminal Procedure Code has a clause according to which the media reports about crimes committed are a ground to institute criminal proceedings (Article 176, Cl. 2). At the same time Clause 1 of Article 180 stipulates that the crime reports must be considered and resolved without delay, and should it be deemed necessary, the legitimacy and sufficiency of grounds should be verified – within 10 days since the receipt of the report.

Meanwhile, on April 20 in a number of Armenian media the statements of Hovhannes Varian and Hovhannes Tamamian were published, in which they deny being involved in illegal actions against journalists.

As a response to the statement of Hovhannes Varian, “Haikakan Zhamanak” in the issue of April 21 places the half- and full-faced photos of the Deputy Head of Police. The editorial comment mentions that these are the photos of “a dangerous criminal”, who, as it appears, “has endowed himself with the authority of the Deputy Head of the RA Police and likes to introduce himself as Hovhannes Varian”. This man, as the newspaper writes, took the editorial camera of Haik Gevorgian and ordered “the criminals with batons that accompanied him” to beat the journalist. The edition addresses the law enforcement bodies to identify the person in the photos who “introduces himself as the Deputy Head of the RA Police Hovhannes Varian”.

WAN AND WEF PRESIDENTS REMIND ABOUT THE DUTY OF THE STATE

On April 19 the Presidents of the World Association of Newspapers Seok Hyun Hong and the World Editors Forum Gloria Brown Anderson addressed a statement to the RA President Robert Kocharian. The letter voiced concern over the events of April 5 and in the early morning of April 13 that resulted in violence towards the journalists who were covering the situation (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 2-8, 2004 and April 9-15, 2004).

The heads of the organizations uniting 18,000 publications of 100 countries ask the Armenian President to ensure that a thorough investigation into the incidents is conducted and to do everything possible for the journalists to exercise their professional activities unimpeded.

“We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of intimidation. Such incidents foster a climate of fear that inhibits journalistic investigation and can promote self-censorship”, the letter by the heads of WAN and WEF stresses and a hope for the quickest possible response of the Armenian President is expressed.

On April 16 the statement of Armenian Assembly of America was released, where the need of a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition of Armenia is emphasized. AAA also urges the Armenian authorizes to “take resolute steps to protect journalists from interference and violence as they perform their professional duties“.

ASSOCIATION OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AGAINST THE MUNICIPALITY OF YEREVAN

On April 14 the Association of Investigative Journalists and its Chairman Edik Baghdasarian filed a suit with the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan against the Yerevan municipality.

According to Edik Baghdasarian, he is demanding that the city administration ensures his right to information, necessary to finish the journalistic investigation on the illegal building up of the public green zone around the National Opera and Ballet Theater. During the past years 12 cafes and restaurants were built on those grounds. The destruction of the green “spots” that Yerevan is not very abundant in has always caused numerous public protests, neglected by the city authorities. An opinion is voiced that there is not a single incidental person among the owners of the cafes and restaurants around the Opera Theater, they all belong to people, well-known in the country.

Edik Baghdasarian addressed the present Mayor of Yerevan Yervand Zakharian with request to access the resolutions of the city administration on using this public territory for construction, adopted in 1997-2003, but was repeatedly refused with varying pretexts. After this the journalist addressed a letter to the Control Chamber of the RA President, from where it was redirected back to the municipality, where the journalist is still being refused information. Thus, according to Mr. Baghdasarian, he only has to hope for a court decision to get access to documents, basing on which the construction in one of the most beautiful places of the Armenian capital was made.

“KENTRON” TV COMPANY TO CHANGE OWNER?

By unofficial information, confirmed by a number of sources, the Deputy of the RA National Assembly, Chairman of the United Labor Party of Armenia Gurgen Arsenian arrived at an agreement with the RA NA Deputy, President of “Multi Group” Company, businessman Gagik Tsarukian on selling him “Kentron” TV company. There is also a supposition that the management of the TV company will be headed by Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily Aram Abrahamian.

FRIENDSHIP ORDER TO TRANSLATOR AND PUBLICIST

On April 21 a well-known Armenian translator and publicist Armen Hovhannisian was awarded a Friendship Order at the Embassy of Russian Federation in the Republic of Armenia. This award was conferred on Armen Hovhannisian by a decree of the Russian President for the valuable contribution in the development of the cultural cooperation between the two counties. The literary “archive” of Armen Hovhannisian contains translations of works by Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Shukshin, Solzhenitsyn and other classics of Russian literature into Armenian.

Yerevan Press Club sincerely congratulates Armen Hovhannisian on the award, hopes that his gifts to the Armenian reader will continue and adds a tiny bit of pride – the wonderful translator and talented publicist is a member of our organization.

“AYB-FEH” IS SEVEN YEARS OLD

April 21 marked the seventh anniversary since “Ayb-Feh” news agency of “A1+” TV company went on air. The popular “Ayb-Feh” newscast has been out of air since April 2, 2002, when “A1+” TV company was refused a broadcast license. Having been deprived of air, “Ayb-Feh” continues to give up-to-date information to the public on what is happening, working online on “A1+” web site.

Yerevan Press Club congratulates the staff of “Ayb-Feh” and again wishes to get back on air soon!

“DEMO” AND “ASPAREZ” ON THE WEB

Now the first public newspaper of Karabagh “Demo” (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 26 – April 1, 2004) can be viewed online at:http://demo.ktsurf.net . More detailed information on the publication can be received via e-mail: karabakh_demo@yahoo.com

Since April 21 the world wide web has another Armenian site – that of “Asparez” Journalists Club of Gyumri (http://www.asparez.am). Its Russian and English versions are expected to be launched soon.