regarding the address of Supreme Patriarch that was not broadcast as part of the pre-New Year programming of the Public Television
On December 31, 2023, contrary to established tradition, the First Channel of Public Television Company did not air the address of Supreme Patriarch as part of its pre-New Year programming. This triggered extensive public debate over the holiday period. The Public TV’s choice to air the address of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, during a high-viewership evening news slot, the time reserved for official messages, implying that the speech of the Catholicos should follow the speech of the RA President, constitutionally recognized as the head of the state, is hard to regard as justified and well-founded. It was later revealed that the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin voiced dissent regarding that particular format.
We, the undersigned journalistic organizations, believe that the traditions, which have nearly evolved into a state protocol, should only undergo changes through public opinion assessment and potential consequences analysis. While acknowledging the position of the Council of the Public Broadcaster highlighting the absence of legal regulations in Armenia concerning the broadcasts of New Year’s messages, which allows every TV company autonomy in deciding the timing and sequence of their broadcasts, we, nevertheless, insist that in this case it is not appropriate to equate the public broadcaster with “every TV company.” Moreover, for this argument to hold weight, the Council should have previously initiated or announced such a change, promoting comprehensive discussion on this matter, while preserving the established practice.
The reasoning presented by the advocates for breaking away from the traditional format of the Catholicos’ address broadcast revolves around the current lack of societal respect for the Patriarch and the church. This argument prompts a discussion on the rating of the Prime Minister, trust in the public broadcaster and the right to abolish the tradition established since Armenia’s independence. It is necessary to recognize that such contradictions between the Government and the Armenian Apostolic Church, tinged with undesired political undertones, cannot foster a healthy public life. Instead, they only serve to deepen the polarization existing among different segments of society.
We also take note that the Catholicos’ address was aired on “Shoghakat” TV Channel and Public Radio, supervised by the Council of the Public Broadcaster. However, this occurrence does not resolve the underlying issue, which should spur further discussions and reasoned decisions.
Based on the above, we call on the Council of the Public Broadcaster:
- to act with greater circumspection towards the traditions, which are exceptionally sensitive for the society, basing any modifications on reliable studies and analyses;
- to initiate public and professional discussions regarding the appropriateness of legislative changes for the broadcast of New Year’s messages on the Public TV.
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER
MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE-ARMENIA
PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB
“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO
“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO
GORIS PRESS CLUB