Yerevan Press Club Report “Armenian Media in 1990-1995”
Any conversation on media acting in the post-Soviet space, undoubtedly rests against the question: to what degree are they free and to what degree have they managed to cast off the chains of totalitarian existence and thinking? In this connection, it is very important to define the terms “free” and “independent”. Not going into polemics with other interpretations and in order to avoid confusion, I want to suggest from the beginning the understanding to be given to those terms in this report:
– “(not) free” – this definition characterizes basically a media system in a country (region) as a whole. One can call media free only when they present an independent institution of a society, and are not an appendage of governmental institutions, political parties or commercial structures. The social function of a free media outlet can be easily defined: to provide society with all socially significant information and to ensure adequate feedback.
– “independent”- this term primarily defines a legal status of a concrete media outlet, the formal right of publishers (managers) to define on their own policies and nature of everyday activity.
Thus, to what degree are the media free in Armenia? According to the evaluation of an authoritative organization “Reporters sans Frontières” for 1995, media in our country are but “partially free”. Such an estimation hardly tells us anything substantial. It just states that we are behind the Western countries, countries of developed democracy as well as the majority of our partner countries from the former socialist camp; though, we are at least not yielding to our current partners in the CIS.
For a more detailed analysis, we’ll refer to theory, history and concrete figures and facts.
As is generally known, there is no absolute freedom, and it makes sense to talk about its levels only. According to some typological features, one can define six levels of media freedom. Dominance of this or that level in a particular country allows to speak with a relative objectivity about the degree of media freedom in it.
First Level: media in a totalitarian society. Regardless of a formal status, all publications and electronic media are under control of respective state and party structures – the Ministry of Truth, as George Orwell figuratively named that controlling machine in his novel “1984”. Externally, the boundaries of freedom here can be very much different. Remember the press of North Korea, familiar to us by the Russian language magazine Korea. It is characterized by complete lack of any thoughts, an excessive apologia for the regime and its leader. On the contrary, some of the Soviet media of the Perestroika era seemed to be expanding beyond the limits of the permitted every day: castigating social vices, breaking ideological dogmas… Moscow News, Ogonyok were creating an illusion of victory of the freedom of speech. However, the openness of Perestroika was just a substitute for freedom. Censorship and supremacy of communist bodies over media was still prevalent. At any instance Yegor Yakovlev and Vitaliy Korotich could have been replaced by editors like Victor Afanasiev or Valentin Chikin, and the course of the publication would have been changed radically. Openness was being strictly dosed from the top – the Politburo. And if social-liberal Alexander Yakovlev was pouring a generous dose, orthodox Yegor Ligachev was weighing it in pharmaceutical scales. Armenians became aware of the price for openness rather early – as early as in the beginning of 1988, in the days of the peak of the Karabagh movement. Silence, reviews reminding by their style resolutions by party bodies. Even the leaders of openness – Moscow News and Ogonyok joined the informational blockade of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh. The former periodical quiet downed sharply after getting a scolding for publishing a harmless historical reference by Karen Khachatourov. Correspondents of the latter before arriving in rallying Yerevan went through a thorough instructing in the office of the Secretary of the Central Committee of CPSU Yakovlev; however, even having fulfilled the instructions and passed over all the sharp angles, they did not receive permission to come up with a publication. I think, it is not even worth reminding about Pravda and Sovetskaya Rossia.
In some sense, with all their outward incompatibility, magazines Korea and Ogonyok of the Perestroika period are phenomena of a typologically common order. The experience of Soviet media of the Perestroika period eloquently testifies that control of state structures over media makes worthless any talks on the freedom of speech – regardless of the high ideals declared by the given state.
At the same time, however paradoxical it may sound, the total control over media was leading to indubitable creative achievements: the restrictions in the choice of themes and ideological limitations were leading to “sublimation” of journalists’ potential into the realm of genre and style. Particular successes pertain again to the era of Perestroika and openness, when the expanded limits of freedom were being combined with a good quality journalism school.
Second Level: political pluralism. It is connected with the emergence of real multipartisan systems, the possibility for different political forces to have their own publications and access to radio and TV, at least for a period of election campaigns. However, it is early to talk about the freedom of media, since journalists become hostages of political interests, and they, as a rule, are deprived of the right for an individual stance and objective coverage of events. Only a very well-prepared reader has the possibility to compose a true mosaic picture of reality out of diverse and contradicting elements. Allocation of media by party camps, their focus on political opposition naturally reduce the demands for professional performance and are fraught with crisis of journalism as a creative activity. We are observing this process in the nowadays Armenian media.
Third Level: media financed by commercial structures. For these commercial structures the informational-publishing business is not a major activity, but a by-going one. Accordingly, their main purpose is not to see that the media outlet they finance has a success, but that they themselves succeed in their main commercial business. Roughly speaking, some beer lord is most zealous to get a newspaper’s assistance in selling out his beer. That is, he wants media to perform advertising and lobbying functions. By this circumstance, the bounds of freedom for journalists become significantly narrowed. At the same time, one can consider media of this category as a step forward in comparison with partisan media. First, the free market, in which civilized entrepreneurs are interested, implies certain freedom of thought and expression. Second, commercial structures are not as ideologically bound as those having party affiliation. Third, considerations of prestige force entrepreneurs to take care of their professional level and the image of the financed media. The third level of freedom has become a reality for media of many countries in the CIS, particularly, in Russia. A bright example of that is the activity of a famous banker Vladimir Gousinski: the newspaper Segodnya and NTV, which have emerged and successfully exist due to his efforts, are widely popular. Apparently, they carry out political and economic orders of the banker, but his intellect and breadth of views allow him to withhold from demands, which can negatively influence the newspaper’s and TV channel’s reputation.
Fourth Level: independent informational-publishing businesses. Empires of Thomson, Maxwell, Springer, Murdoch prove that media do not necessarily have to serve political structures or foreign businesses. By themselves, these are one of the most profitable business fields. Media should be marketable and should attract advertisement, and for doing that, they should satisfy the consumer (social) demand. The priorities of professional tasks: promptness, actuality, trustworthiness, objectivity, – lift up the slat of freedom greatly.
It is not correct to perceive a consumer success simplistically – judging by circulation of periodicals and size of audience. It is also important to consider such a category as consumers’ quality. Let’s compare two British newspapers from Murdoch’s empire: the Times and the Sunday Times. The first is designed for a more sophisticated taste and intellectual standard, and even though its circulation is much less, the price for advertisement in it is much higher. And, as is known, it is the advertisement that determines the financial success. The most expensive advertisement is in the reputable Financial Times which has one of the smallest reading audiences among British national newspapers. This audience, however, consists of the country’s entrepreneurial and political elite. The above mentioned examples reject our common perceptions that commercialization of media necessarily leads to the emergence of tabloid junk. Much depends on development of a society as well as on professional traditions of media.
Direct interdependence of tasks of informational-publishing businesses with the consumer success, nevertheless, is not a hundred percent warranty of freedom against political conjuncture. The same media lord is a person with certain political views and interests which may sometimes prevail over considerations of objectivity and professionalism. Some cases are known when during election campaigns some parties were literally buying sympathies of independent media. A higher degree of freedom of this category of media, as compared with the three previous ones, is determined by the inalienable right for choosing a particular behavioral pattern. For example, partisan media originally destined to play a serving role, are deprived of such a right.
Fifth Level: media produced by journalists. In the essence, it is a variety of the fourth category. Its advantage is in the fact that informational-publishing business happens to be in the hands of professional unions of journalists, and not in the hands of cynical entrepreneurs. Journalists’ responsiveness, professional principles, aspiration for freedom of creativity provide a high level of media freedom. French newspaper Le Monde is a classical example of a “journalistic” newspaper. However, media of this category have a very low ability for survival and often fall a prey to big corporations.
Sixth Level: media financed by foundations (state, public and private). The main stipulation for funding is the consistent and high quality implementation of certain social functions by media. Freedom from political and commercial conjuncture and dictatorship provide media with ample opportunities for improvement. There are examples of special editions of this kind in international practice. We know such financed projects as magazines Transition (in English), Sreda (in Russian) and some others, a number of special TV and radio programs in the countries of CIS and the former socialist camp. It is a relatively new phenomenon for media which have serious problems for growth: how to ensure accurate and justified choice of a project; how to achieve an effective control over the quality of its realization; how to avoid the “test-tube effect”: some alienation from the traditional media world with its incentives and competition is fraught with a loss of “taste and scent”. That’s why foundation funding rarely involves media of wide scope and profile. To some extent, one can attribute to this category the British broadcasting corporation BBC and similar organizations in other countries. Unlike the above mentioned examples, BBC is summoned to work not only for export (to teach democracy to developing and post-totalitarian countries), but also for internal usage. State funding excludes dependency, as unforgettable Vladimir Ilyich used to say, on “a money sack”, and the ideological-political freedom in this case is minimally restricted. BBC has certain organizational principles, so that it is summoned to defend interests of the state and the British society in general, and not those of concrete empowered people and political groups. Although, of course, on the way of realization of this objective, lots of problems arise compelling us to ask ourselves a question: isn’t commercial, private broadcasting freer? A simple answer to this question is not found yet.
If judging according to the suggested system of six levels, one can consider as free the media of those countries where the fourth level of freedom has been achieved – i.e., where an independent informational-publishing business has been developed. As it was already mentioned, these media in certain cases can carry out orders of political structures, major businesses, though the latter have to reckon with media and seriously correct their behavior with that account. In other words, equal partnership is being established, which is a determinant of firmness of democracy, rightful state and civil society.
Concluding the theoretical part of the report, we would like to talk about the interpretation of still another term: the “fourth power”. The formula “media = the fourth power” is a figurative overstatement. In reality, it would have been more correct to call as the “fourth power” the social power, the public opinion. Media are perhaps the most important, but still an instrument for the “fourth power”. Today one can often hear nostalgic statements that in the communist period the effectiveness of a printed word was more potent: each leader had to respond in a one-month period to a criticism appeared in the press, radio or TV. This is portrayed as if we used to have that “fourth power” in those days. In reality, as we all know, there reigned the one-and-only indivisible power. And administrative requirement to react to a media criticism was just a realization of that power in a specific form. One can talk about a real “fourth power” only in the case when the object of criticism is not obliged to, but still responds to the criticism since it cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the public opinion.
The Armenian media have stopped, as mentioned already, on the second level (that of political pluralism). Consequently, it is too early to talk about their freedom as well as about the establishment of the “fourth power”.
MEDIA IN ARMENIA IN 1990-1996
The almost six-year history of Armenian media of the post-communist period can be conditionally divided into three stages. First stage – 1990-1992. Second – 1993-1994. The third has begun in 1995 and is still continuing at the present. Since the main events pertain to the domain of printed media, we should mainly focus on that subject in this part of the report.
One can call the years of 1990-1992 as the “golden age” of Armenian journalism. In July 1990, it became legally possible to establish new publications. Political activity of the society awaken by the Karabagh movement and Perestroika, stipulated interest in media. The example of uninhibited Moscow media stimulated Armenian journalists. Beginning from 1990, they started developing their own democratic traditions: newspapers Yerekoyan Yerevan, Avangard, Grakan Tert, Haik, magazine Garoun and some TV and radio-programs even before the “velvet revolution” penetrated the domain of “forbidden themes” and were subject to censorship. The new Armenian leadership initially had a tolerant attitude towards the “liberties” taken by the press. The traditional Armenian parties returned from abroad and introduced the specific Diaspora press experience into our life. The newly emerging layer of civilized entrepreneurs was interested in informational-publishing and advertising businesses. The cost price of printed production was relatively low, and its price was comparable with the purchasing power of the population.
On that stage, there emerged certain pre-conditions for rather a high level of freedom for the print media. Newspapers corresponding to the features of the first five levels of freedom: from totally controllable by the state bodies, to those belonging to journalistic unions, were being published. Circulation of Hayastani Hanrapetutiun, Yerkir, Azg, Zerkalo in their best times, and that of some issues of Mounetik, alone, was exceeding the total everyday circulation of all newspapers being published today by the Parberakan publishing-house. The first independent by their status news agencies were set up. The unreliable situation, rather weak material and financial basis, legal unprotectedness and political instability in the country were hindering the acknowledgment of the fact of liberation of the press. Journalists still recall the days of the August coup of 1991, when the Republic of Armenia (RA) leadership secretively banned the edition of independent publications.
In these years of the utmost freedom of the Armenian media, objective and subjective pre-requisites for their retrieval from the conquered positions came forth. A paper deficit occurred, prices for printing services increased, and, as a result, the price cost of printed production jumped up. A tendency for bankruptcy of entrepreneurs, their emigration and decline of their interest in publishing business and advertising, became apparent. The purchasing power of the population diminished. The energetic crisis led to the stoppage of most of the departments of the Parberakan publishing-house. Official editions found a shelter at the President’s administration residence, Dashnaks had their own polygraph base, some other periodicals managed to survive somehow. The majority of the periodicals was forced to stand idle, which negatively affected their further existence.
In 1991, the Law On the Press and Other Media was adopted, which cannot be called otherwise than a legislative flaw. Despite the existence of the phrase “…and other media” in its title, the law is accommodated for regulating – not even fully – the operation of the print media only. According to the law, it is not possible at all to register, say, a photo agency. It seems unjustified to put at a registering organization’s disposal the right to define the expediency of publishing newspapers and magazines in foreign languages. Last but not least, the law has an obvious prohibitive inclination. It contains an Article 6 “On Unacceptability of Misusing the Freedom of Speech”, and, at the same time, lacks any stipulation guaranteeing the freedom of speech. It also lacks mechanisms ensuring equal conditions for media existence, equal access to official information, etc.
Already in 1990-1992, it became apparent that the ruling elite was not interested in the development of free media. In 1990, there were all grounds to expect that the self-proclaimed democratic authority, when launching new official media, would restrict itself by the role of a sponsor and will lay down foundations for free media. Especially as there were precedents of that kind in the post-Soviet states: for example, the Parliament of Latvia founded, financed and equipped the newspaper Diena, and when it retrieved, gave it independence by creating free stocks for the employees. Whereas in Armenia, the official press, state radio and TV moved under a complete control of the authorities and started continually to carry out their political orders. Newspaper Haik which was the first to break the monopoly of Party-Soviet-Comsomol press in 1989, and which was being perceived as a mouthpiece of freedom, shortly transformed into a “propagandist, agitator and collective organizer” of the ruling party. In 1992, the broadcasting of a perspective TV program Haylour was banned.
It is necessary to note, that the political opposition did not reveal a specific interest in free media development, either. Opposition newspapers time and again were accusing independent press of “not adequately criticizing the authorities”. In December 1992, when almost all Armenian press, as it was noted above, lost the possibility to be published in the Parberakan publishing-house, the printing-house Mikayel Varandian, controlled by the Dashnaktsoutiun Party, either was refusing periodicals in provision of services, or was setting too high prices.
Publishers and journalists themselves also chose the way of mutual isolation, whereas in the existing conditions, only consolidation on a professional basis could cushion the blows, which one after another were striking media on the threshold of 1992-1993. Unification of press, which was being discussed in the journalistic circles in a variety of projects, but never was realized, could have partially solved the problems of paper supplies, exempting press from the value-added tax, etc. (Although, during the tenure of the Prime Minister Khosrov Haroutiunian, media were exempt from VAT for several months, but the mechanisms of that decision were not thoroughly elaborated, thus diminishing its effectiveness). A unified press action would have protected them from the many-month payment delay by the press distribution agency: in the conditions of galloping inflation a 5-6 month delay (which was not that rare) was reducing a circulation realization proceeds in five times.
Finally, the outburst of an enormous number of newspapers and the lack of equivalent perspectives in other spheres of activity led to an influx of new people into journalism, many of them not even possessing adequate experience, knowledge or skills. A common delusion that every active reader could make an editor (just like a soccer fun sees in himself a coach), became widespread. Some media outlets (including the leading ones) became in 100% recruited from novices in journalism. This, apparently, brought in a fresh stream, but also led to a dissipation of the professional capital, accumulated by the national school of journalism, to a sharp decrease of criteria for professionalism and a washing out of ethical principles.
It was these negative tendencies taken shape in the years of the “golden age”, that stipulated most of the nowadays vices of Armenian media.
1993-1994 were the years when two main types of publications – politically engaged and vulgar commercial – became prevailing on the Armenian press-market. The former were sponsored by the government or a party. The latter were trying to survive at the expense of cheap entertainment (cheap in terms of minimal expenses for production of informational material). It became obvious on this stage that the press in Armenia in the existing circumstances cannot be self-sustainable (except for very specific editions such as advertising, erotic, crosswords collections, etc.). For survival, there is a need for donations in this or that form. Even entertaining editions start experiencing serious problems as soon as they become deprived of sponsors’ support.
The circumstances determined the possibilities for survival only through political involvement. As a result, press market in Armenia obtained perverted appearance: newspapers and magazines were forced to offer their services not to the reader but to political sponsors. And they were offering themselves both partially and completely. Publications having a claim on reliability were compelled to resign themselves that the number of their readers was only 2-3 thousand people. Only to make happy the single reader who pays for everybody! Allocation of the press by political camps created on the pages of both pro-governmental and opposition newspapers an atmosphere of mutual intolerance and political persecution. This ambiance became the main cause of the cases of assaults on editorial offices and journalists. There were cases of arsons of newspapers Azg (twice) and Shrjan (already in 1995). The victims of assaults became TV-journalist Aram Abrahamian; editor-in-chief of the newspaper Azg Hakob Avedikian, the same newspaper’s staff member Armen Baghdassarian; as well an employee of the advertising company Arina, who was mistaken for a staff member of the newspaper Golos Armenii during the assault on the editorial office.
These are only the recorded cases, however, there is a not fully confirmed evidence on some others. For complementing the list, one should recall, that already in 1990, the first assault victim among journalists was a staff member of Hayastani Hanrapetutiun Tigran Farmanian, and in 1995 – hopefully, the last victim – observer of Golos Armenii Gagik Mkrtchian.
The second stage eventuated by unprecedented ban on newspapers and magazines of Dashnaktsoutiun Party and all those suspected in having connections with the latter. The informational agency Haylour and the Armenian-Canadian joint printing-house Mikayel Varandian were also shut down. From the legal point of view, the banning and property confiscation are far from being irreproachable. And here again, the weakness of the legislation, which does not provide the opportunity to qualify the extent of rightfulness of authorities’ actions, calls our attention.
Impoverished after the December (1994) action, the press-counter of ours makes us claim to be given legislative guarantees to secure the inviolability of media, regardless of their affiliation until their assumed violation of the country’s laws is not proved judicially.
1995-1996. This period is proceeding under the sign of the election campaigns – parliamentarian and presidential. For the first time Armenian media are directly involved in this important political process. However, they are involved not as an independent social institution, but as a propagandist weapon for competing political forces (regardless of their political status). Practically, all the press, as well as some journalists, have taken in advance certain positions and have covered the events according to these of those political interests. Pluralism of opinions under the deficit of objective information was not of an adequate help to the RA citizens in making decisions during the Referendum on Constitution and elections to the National Assembly.
A fierce political struggle – this is how one can characterize the current situation with the Armenian media. As a faraway echo of that struggle one can indicate the stoppage of the newspaper Golos Armenii caused by the conflict with the Parberakan publishing-house in May 1995, delay with the registration of the newspaper of the National Democratic Union Ayzhm and changes in the newspaper Lragir which hardly contributed to the benefit of that publication, gained a certain success.
The behavior of Armenian media during the election campaigns and their present state once again prove the sad fact that the Armenian society experiencing a decisive period of acquiring the principles of democracy, has not been able to preserve and strengthen the weak sprouts of free press, which started developing in the beginning of 1990’s.
As a result, some of the media presenting an indisputable social value temporarily or finally withdrew from the scene. In a number of cases, their withdrawal was not due to a sound competition, but to the anomalous phenomena existent in our reality.
Along with this, the third period has given the first experience of funding media from foreign sources. Free radio stations appeared, and soon, let’s hope, publications will appear too. The radio stations carry an entertaining character, though, and the first publication Banks and Finance (which received a grant) specializes in economics. However, this is perhaps just the beginning.
ACTUAL STATE OF THE MEDIA
Media and Figures. As of January 1, 1996, there are 440 registered media outlets in the RA. Among them, there are 294 newspapers, 59 magazines, 53 TV-programs, 16 radio-programs and 18 news agencies. However, only about 100 of them are acting steadily.
Media and the Authorities. There is an abyss between the authorities, their representatives, governmental structures and – journalists, which hinders consolidation of atmosphere of trust and openness in the Armenian society. Press services under governmental structures are not always willing and competent to satisfy the social demand for actual information. Established in 1995, the Ministry of Information of the RA has not proved yet, neither by its actual activity nor by perspective programs, the necessity of its existence: basically, we are encountering a dubbing of the work of already existing structures. Media banned under the Dashnaktsoutiun case are either prohibited or restored in their rights, but the damages they suffered cannot be compensated fully.
Media and the Law. The currently acting law on printed media has not left any doubts in its own impotency. It was being applied only when there was a need to introduce sanctions against media. We do not have valid grounds to dispute the judicial resolutions on stopping the activity of newspapers Aysor (1993) and Lragir (1996), but it would have been useful to talk about the cases when the law would have helped the media – settled down an argument between the creative staff and the founder in favor of the former, i.e. for the benefit of the common cause. The recent withdrawal from the informational arena of the studio A-1 is one more reminder about the breaches of the law. The work on amendments (or on a new law on the print media) is carried out in the Government and the respective Committee of the National Assembly without an immediate participation of journalists, which is fraught with an emergence of another unproductive legislative act. The responsibility in such a case is equally shared by both the legislators and journalists who have not revealed due concern with creating civilized conditions for their activity. The legal arena should be expanded also at the expense of laws on radio and TV, advertising and on State secret. The specifics and legal regulation of electronic media should also be given due consideration. Legal mechanisms should be found for removal of the confusion in the domain of advertising: when a reader (spectator, listener) cannot distinguish a paid commercial from the one which reflects the opinion and position of a journalist; when it is impossible to find the person responsible for poor quality ads, etc. Finally, the notion of a State secret should receive a precise legislative foundation and should not be farmed out by the executive body.
Media and the Society. According to an opinion poll conducted after the parliamentarian elections of 1995 by the assistant professor of the Department of Sociology at the Yerevan State University Marina Kyurkchian, the interviewees, evaluating the Armenian media, most often used characteristics such as “low professional level”, “monotonous”, “politicized”, “biased”, “uninformed”. Dissatisfaction of people with the official media can be explained by the open propagandist character of the latter, lack of diversity of opinions and political discussions. As far as the opposition press is concerned, the dissatisfaction is caused by its destructiveness and a “big number of complaints on the level of housewives”. According to the research data collected by the Youth Research Center at the Department of Sociology of the Yerevan State University, 60% of respondents think that there is no due diversity of periodicals in Armenia, and the available ones serve primarily as a means for clearing out relationship between different parties.
The social status of journalists is lowered, there is practically no system for their social and legal protection. None of the state or social services has been seriously concerned with the problem of about 100 staff members of publications shut down in December 1994. The cases of assaults on journalists and editors taken place in 1993-1995 have not provoked an adequate reaction in the society and state structures. None of those cases has been properly investigated and disclosed by the legal bodies.
Media and the Market. During the period of 1990-1995 the cost of paper and printing services has increased (as converted into hard currency) in 12 times. At the same time the low purchasing power of the population excluded the possibility of a respective increase in retail price: it increased only in 1,5 times. Today a newspaper of a common for Armenia volume of two printed pages (8 pages of A3 size, like Azg, or 4 pages of size A2, like Golos Armenii) under a usual circulation of 5 thousand copies, for only covering the expenses for paper, production, office space and communication, should be sold for about 100 drams. We have not had that kind of prices so far. Even in the hypothetical situation when the proceeds from advertising would cover the expenses for salaries, self-sustainability (and, as a result, independence) for Armenian press cannot be accessible. Only a sharp increase in the quality of life and entrepreuneral activity in the country can lead to expansion of proceeds from advertising and rise of retail prices which can contribute to the economic independence of the press. However, this process can be extended, whereas the process of degradation of the Armenian media tends to take a more and more threatening character.
Media and Journalists. Unsuccessful state of Armenian media and the expanded recently possibilities for qualified journalists to switch to relatively well-paid jobs, still deepen the crisis. Professionals are being replaced by not well-prepared debutantes who very often do not have the possibility to acquire experience and knowledge from professionals. Besides, business links have been disrupted, professional environment has been distorted together with professional and ethical goals.
The recent years have shown some examples of professional solidarity demonstration among journalists. In 1992, an action for support of the banned TV-program Haylour was undertaken. In the beginning of 1995, journalists initiated manifestations demanding the government to waive the media banning introduced under the Dashnaktsoutiun case. In May 1995, a number of newspapers provided space for publications of “Golos Armenii”, which had a publishing delay because of the conflict with the Parberakan publishing-house. Some time later, a number of periodicals of different orientation marked on their pages the 4th anniversary of the banned newspaper “Yerkir”. Unfortunately, despite their moral attractiveness, these actions had more of an occasional and “sprinter” character. Armenian journalists have been incapable of constructive and thorough work, necessary for developing a “favorable environment” and “breathing” (say, to draft a law and lobby it in the parliament for the adoption…).
In such a situation, the role of journalistic organizations which would unify the colleagues regardless of their political views, is very important. In 1995, three new organizations joined the Journalists Union: the Yerevan Press Club, the Union of Young Journalists Four and the Association of Independent Journalists. It is important to emphasize that only those organizations can be useful for the cause, which can explicitly realize their tasks and see their goal in cooperation, examples of which have been shown by the Journalists Union of Armenia and the Yerevan Press Club. Artificially created, politically engaged and pursuing selfish interests organizations can only increase the disconnection, hinder the realization of programs important for the whole Armenian press.
Media and Foreign Aid. Before 1995, the assistance of foreign and international organizations had had a main purpose to send Armenian journalists abroad for training, internship and experience sharing programs. About 50 people attended different courses and participated in journalistic delegations to the USA, United Kingdom, Germany and France. Series of lectures and seminars by primarily American specialists were organized for Armenian journalists in Yerevan. Today the assistance is also provided through funding of projects with the aim to establish and strengthen independent media. Questions on technical assistance to Armenian media and support for journalistic organizations are being discussed. Large programs require conceptual approaches. The Yerevan Press Club and the organizations collaborating with it are close to submitting to all interested organizations their own conception elaborated on the basis of a thorough study.
In the essence of the conception there should lay the principle of coordinated and complex measures, directed towards:
– improvement of the legislative basis of media operation;
– improvement of professional qualification;
– development of a journalistic environment, consolidated mainly over professional problems;
– elimination of the state monopoly in the areas of printing and broadcasting, creation of a technical basis for independent media.
Unfortunately, the Armenian media have not been able to solve all these problems at the expense of their own resources. Today, there is an opportunity to do this with the outside assistance. And to what extent that assistance will be turn out effective depends first and foremost on ourselves, on responsibility we bear for the future of the Armenian media and the Armenian society in general.