Perspective: will there be a return to journalism?

The dark cloud of sad events and disgraceful deeds of the past weeks has been pierced by a ray of sunshine. The telethon to raise funds for “GALA” TV company of Gyumri, harassed by authorities for many months on end, has shown that people are able to tell the difference between the real news and brainwashing, that they are able to value the little democratic achievements that they have. Our colleagues in Gyumri, “GALA” and “Asparez” Journalist’s Club that initiated the campaign to support the TV channel, brought to shame the TV journalism stars in the Armenian capital who justify their bias by saying the free word in Armenia is not protected by anything or anyone.

Only one camera (that of “Yerkir Media” TV company) was shooting the press conference in Yerevan, held on the arson of the car, used by the Chairman of “Asparez” Board Levon Barseghian, and the unprecedented fundraising for “GALA”. The others – over a dozen of Yerevan TV companies and at least as many pro-governmental national newspapers – thought this news “did not deserve attention”.

One can find different words to define a profession that allows such behavior, but the word “journalism” would certainly not appear on this list. One of the applicable words, “brainwashing”, has already been mentioned. It may be used when those who claim the title of journalist have taken to streets – under emergency rule that bans addressing domestic policy beyond official communications. They did it so as to find people ready to pour the dirtiest swearing on the opposition. It is clear that one dreams of delighting the ears of those who banned such behavior with a decree but are generously forgiving in some specific cases, when “the fair assessment” is necessary. But where has this ardor come from? May it be that they miss the communist rule when the explanations of what is to be labeled as black and what as white were given from above once and for all, and one did not have to think and ponder about the social responsibility, did not have to help the society be fully informed, to grope for truth?

Another word that can be proposed is “Bacchanalia”. It is true, the authorities, through considerations of their own, have not announced official morning for the deaths of March 1. But has it not dawned upon people – with no prompts from “above” – that entertaining shows could be taken off air for a couple of days? Might it be that the ability to make independent decisions has been lost even at this level? Then we can expect another outburst of TV fun on the 40th day of the tragedy. Moreover, April 9 will have enough pretext for that.

The words “blackmail”, “witch-hunt” are also more appropriate than the term “journalism”. The international organizations are addressed all kinds of “fie” regarding their assessments of the political process we are having. They have suddenly become incompetent and practicing “double standards”… Yet not that long ago, on February 20, they were our dearest friends, having praised our elections and the progress of our democracy. The subject of Millennium Challenge Account is particularly popular today – “if you refuse us the money, we shall get it from Russia”. The fact that many countries want to help us is undoubtedly encouraging, and we are grateful to all of them. But becoming an MCA beneficiary means not only money. It is first of all a recognition that the country adheres to values, common for the civilized world. And it has not been long since our “court” media engaged in clever reflections on the matter. Hence, it would be quite reasonable to expect these media to give explanations today as to what the exclusion from the beneficiary list or suspension of funding means. But for some reason they find more pleasure in channeling threats of “divorce”, accusations of importing “colored revolutions” and of setting up a “fifth column” in the country.

And now I would like to once again answer the constantly present question of the “court” media: “Why do you not give your assessment to what the opposition media are doing? Is their behavior always fair, truthful and ethical? Do you like their tone and phrasings?” No, I do not like these. But as of today this worries me little. Firstly, what they write is their own business, and nobody makes me read this. Secondly, the authorities are not tied in any way to exercise law against them if they do anything wrong (to say nothing of the illegal repressions being practiced throughout the past weeks). Finally, how can one compare the influence and the readership of several newspapers and online publications out of governmental control with the gigantic broadcast machine, engaged in propaganda. And if today the attention of the media audience tilts towards the former group, this is the problem of those who exchanged journalism for occupations that imitate it.

What worried me is the Public TV and Radio Company that exists through the money of all the citizens of the country, regardless of how they ticked their ballots. What worries me are the private broadcasters who neglect the public mission they assumed upon the receipt of license to use our common resource, the frequency. When they return to the occupation, called journalism, one will be able to afford worrying about other media.

But will they ever return? Had it not been for the “optimistic tragedy” that occurred recently with “GALA” TV company, the tone of the question would have been more sadly pre-determined.


Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant