“PRESS-CLUB+”: “NATIONAL UNITY” DISCUSSING ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS AND DRAM EXCHANGE RATE GROWTH
On October 17 the eighteenth talk show of “Press Club+” series went on the evening air of “Yerkir-Media” TV company.
This time the program host, the Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily Aram Abrahamian has only one guest: the leadership of “National Unity” decided that its leader, Artashes Geghamian, will be speaking on party’s behalf. Thus, the program format “two guests, two experts (this time representing NGOs and media) and audience” was broken. The TV discussion centered on relations between Armenia and Russia and the growth of Armenian dram exchange rate in the context of its impact on the domestic political situation in the country.
It is expected that at 21.00, October 24 (next Tuesday) “Yerkir-Media” will air another “Press Club+” show where the representatives of United Labour Party will share their opinions on the issues of the day.
MEDIA AND ELECTIONS: SEMINARS IN VANADZOR AND GYUMRI
On October 14 in Vanadzor (Lori region) and on October 15 in Gyumri (Shirak region) seminars “Media, Legislation and Elections” were organized by Yerevan Press Club under “Strengthening Advocacy Potential and Networking of Journalistic Associations of Armenia” project, supported by Open Society Institute. Representatives of media of Lori and Shirak regions took part in the seminars.
Ahead of the upcoming elections in 2007/2008 the Editor of YPC Weekly Newsletter Elina Poghosbekian presented the lessons learned from the media coverage of elections campaigns, in particular, the presidential, parliamentary elections of 2003 and the Constitution referendum of 2005. The work of media of Lori and Shirak regions during the referendum and the elections to local self-administration bodies was analyzed by the President of Vanadzor Press Club Artur Sakunts and the Chairman of the Board of “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri Levon Barseghian, respectively. The presentation of YPC President Boris Navasardian was dealing with the role and targets of media, journalistic associations during the imminent election campaigns. YPC Expert Mesrop Harutiunian discussed the media legislation, dwelling in particular on the package of draft laws on broadcasting, recently developed by the Government and submitted to the Parliament.
RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES OBSTRUCTED THE WORK OF “GOLOS ARMENII” OBSERVER
On October 14 “Golos Armenii” newspaper published an article by its Economy Observer Ashot Aramian titled “Under a Cap. How ‘Golos’ Journalist Found Himself Under Total Control of Intelligence”. The article was due to the prohibition on Ashot Aramian’s crossing the borders of Armenia. The journalist learned about this unexpectedly, during a passport control at “Bagratashen” border check-point as he was heading to Tbilisi on business. The Armenian border guards, subordinated to the RA National Security Service, informed the journalist that the prohibition signal was produced by the “Border Management” information system.
“Trying to explain the occurrence – to myself first of all, I had only one conjecture. Some time ago ‘Golos Armenii’ published a big series of critical articles on the various violations in the military and economic activity of the Russian border troops in Armenia, so the relations with the Border Guard Division of RF Federal Security Service in Armenia were truly quite tense for a long time”, Ashot Aramian writes in ”Under a Cap“ article. As Ashot Aramian told YPC, since December 2003 till February 2006 on “Golos Armenii” pages this subject was covered in over 30 pieces. The result of the criticism was that on February 22, 2006 the Border Guard Division of RF Federal Security Service in Armenia at a check- point of “Zvartnots” airport imposed an “entry and exit control” on Ashot Aramian and the Chief Editor of “Golos Armenii” Flora Nakhshkarian: the head and the Economy Observer of the newspaper could now only cross the air border of Armenia with the permission of the check-point head. (It should be noted here that according to an interstate agreement the Armenian borders are guarded by a joint effort of Armenia and Russia and until recently at certain check-points the passport control was implemented by Russian border troops.) “Getting in contact with the administration of the Border Guard Division of the RF FSS in RA and threatening to raise much noise, we induced them to remove the control. At least, we were officially informed about its removal”, the “Under a Cap” piece goes on saying.
As to the incident on the border of Armenia and Georgia, as Ashot Aramian was assured by the Press Secretary of the Border Guard Division of the RF FSS in Armenia Vladimir Karapetian, the Russian border troops have nothing to do with it and the issue is to be settled with the RA National Security Service, in charge of guarding the state border with Georgia.
On October 10 the newspaper editorial office received a reply to its inquiry from the Director of the RA National Security Service Gorik Hakobian that said in particular: “The investigation of the case revealed that the data of Ashot Aramian were entered into the data base on the initiative of the Border Guard Division of the RF FSS in RA with no legitimate reasons. Presently A. Aramian has been removed from the record of “Border Management” system. We notified of the fact the First Deputy Director of RF FSS, the Head of the Border Guards General V.E. Pronichev to prevent such situations from repeating.”
Meanwhile, “Golos Armenii” doubted that this would be the end of the story, qualifying the occurrence as an “outrageous fact of persecution of journalist by the intelligence services of another state for his professional activity, obstructing it”: “If this proved to be possible in the case of a journalist working for an influential Armenian newspaper, what can happen to ordinary citizens, who, not being criminals, are for some reason entered into the database of the intelligence service? Notably, with no sanctioning by the General Prosecutor’s Office or the Police.”
“In our case it is a matter of trivial and brutal deformity that cannot even be concealed by anti-terrorism rhetoric. Actually, have the Russian Generals been targeting the right enemies recently?” Ashot Aramian asks in conclusion of “Under a Cap” article.
NA DEPUTY INSULTED “ARAVOT” CORRESPONDENT
On October 13 at the RA National Assembly the deputy of Republican Party of Armenia faction Nahapet Gevorgian poured abuse and threats on the correspondent of “Aravot” daily Anna Israelian. The “indignation” of the MP was caused by the article published in “Aravot” where he was mentioned. Actually, while abusing Anna Israelian, the deputy did not even know that the article was written not by her, but by “Aravot” correspondent Naira Mamikonian. According to Anna Israelian, Nahapet Gevorgian was contained by the Secretary of “Ardarutiun” faction Grigor Harutiunian. Further, the journalist said, peer MPs took Gevorgian aside, trying to calm him down for some time, were explaining something to him, after which the head of the United Labor Party faction Grigor Arsenian brought him to apologize – literally by hand. During the same day, Anna Israelian noted, Nahapet Gevorgian apologized to her again; moreover, some Republican deputies apologized for their colleague’s behavior, too. As “Aravot” correspondent informed YPC, on the same day Nahapet Gevorgian talked to the author of the article that infuriated him, without exceeding the limits of courtesy.
It should be noted here that this is not the first case of “showdown” with the journalists, made by MPs at the Parliament. A similar incident occurred on May 23 between another Republican deputy, Alexander Sargsian, and the parliament correspondent of “Iravunk” newspaper Taguhi Tovmasian (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 26 – June 1, 2006).
Notably, the “bite” on Anna Israelian occurred on the day when an extraordinary session was held at the National Assembly to decide whether Republican MP Hakob Hakobian was to be deprived of the deputy immunity upon the motion of the RA General Prosecutor. In the interview published by “Aravot” daily on the same day, October 13, the RA NA Speaker, Republican Party Member Tigran Torosian noted, in particular: “Being a deputy is a responsibility to people and state.” On our behalf we would like to add that being a deputy means to master at least basic courtesy in communicating with people, in this case – journalists.
“MIG” TV COMPANY REFUSED TO PROVIDE YPC WITH THE INTERVIEW RECORD
The previous issue of YPC Weekly Newsletter (October 6-12, 2006) published a piece, “Head of ’MIG’ Denies Pressure on TV Company”, telling about the failure of “MIG” TV company of Vanadzor to air the interview of the Chairman of “Orinats Yerkir” party, the former Parliament Speaker Artur Baghdasarian. The piece presented the stances of both “Orinats Yerkir” party and the head of “MIG” TV Company Samvel Harutiunian. In the opinion of “Orinats Yerkir”, the refusal of “MIG” to air the interview was due to the pressure exerted on the TV company. Samvel Harutiunian, on his behalf, told YPC that no pressure had been exerted on the TV company by the regional administration, and his decision to take the interview off the air had a number of reasons. The YPC Newsletter quoted these reasons, and gave an explanation to one of them. This concerns Article 79 of “Regulations of the National Commission on Television and Radio” to which Samvel Harutiunian referred.
The head of “MIG” promised to provide the record of the interview to YPC. However, this was never done. Samvel Harutiunian explained his refusal to provide the interview, saying he did not see the need in our support. We shall not comment on the refusal. We would only like to note that the wish of YPC to see the interview was due not to the need to support anyone (nobody addressed us with such a request) but purely to the intention to understand for ourselves and to help the public to understand a conflict, related to freedom of expression in Armenia.
On October 16, the Day of Armenian Press, at the Journalists Union of Armenia the annual “Azdarar” Award Ceremony was held. The Award was established in 2004 by the Journalists Union of Armenia and the members of the Club of JUA “Gold Pen” Awardees.
“Azdarar” awardees for 2006 were Vardan Aloyan, the Director of CS Publishing House; Samvel Alexanian, the Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper; Narineh Avetisian, Executive Director of “Lori” TV company; “VEM” radio station; Zaven Sargsian, JUA member, Director of Sergey Parajanov’s Museum.
A special “Azdarar” Award was granted to Raphael Hovhannisian, the head of the production team for “On Strange Deserted Roads” program cycle of the Public Television of Armenia.
PRIME MINISTER GRANTED DIPLOMAS TO MEDIA
On October 13 the RA Prime Minister Andranik Margarian awarded memorable medals and diplomas of gratitude to individuals and organizations on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the independence of Armenia, as well as for active contribution to the work of Armenia-Diaspora Third Forum, the preparation and organization of “Aznavour and Friends” Concert that opened the Year of Armenia in France. Diplomas of gratitude were granted to: Deputy Executive Directors of Public Television of Armenia Harutiun Harutiunian and Alexander Chitchian; Second Armenian TV Channel; “Armenia” TV company; “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” and “Novoye Vremya” newspapers.
STORIES RECORDED WITH NO INVOLVEMENT OF JOURNALISTS
“Uninvented Stories” CD and book have been produced by the British “Conciliation Resources” NGO under its project “Audio Diaries in South Caucasus”. “Uninvented Stories” are told by ordinary people, recorded by themselves with no involvement of journalists. Journalists further edited the stories into 2-3 minute “diaries”. The genre of video/audio diaries was born in early 1990s at BBC in order to give floor to people from the street, whose voices are seldom heard on air. In 2002 a similar radio project was launched in South Caucasus. Today journalists of 20 radio stations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Mountainous Karabagh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia take part in it. “Uninvented Stories” present the most vivid and interesting of the 1,300 South Caucasus audio diaries, collected in four years.