The 35th episode of “The Armenian blogosphere” podcast – a first for this year is now available for download as an mp3 file from here or listening online by clicking the player icon below.
We have been experimenting with a new format for the podcast and this issue also features technology news. I’ll appreciate comments and suggestions.
This 5 minute podcast is produced by Internews Armenia. The program was made by Lusine Grigoryan, Gegham Vardanyan, Armen Sargsyan, Artur Papyan. The radio version of the podcast is broadcast throughout the territory of Armenia by Radio Hay radiostation on Saturdays and Mondays, at 9:00 AM.
Armenian bloggers become more and more concerned about the world economic crisis.
David_sand, for example, thinks that the consequences of the crisis in Armenia may even lead to mass disturbances.
If the financial crisis results in worsening the quality of life, which is already noticeable (although our politicians keep denying it,) or if the volumes of manufacturing and consuming get decreased because of crisis, even those political figures will have to persuade the people that the situation is even worse in the neighboring countries, or will go on denying the fact that the situation is getting even worse.
According to the blogger, denying that fact might lead to dangerous consequences, “People could get disappointed, and the expressions of that disappointment could be even worse than the events in March, 2008.”
However, some people even like the crisis. “The crisis is the best thing that has happened to me since I started working in the sphere of business,” writes Naysaykus, adding:
“The crisis has taught people to work by the sweat of their brow. For the first time in the whole post-Soviet history people started to understand the real value of money. Now there are just 2 employees in the company instead of 10 parasites, and their salaries have been significantly increased. That is, competent and hard-working people are paid better. Isn’t it good?”
“Mining industry is in crisis. Lycos Company is getting closed. Despite that, the All Armenian Fund has managed to gather 35 million dram – twice as much as the last time. That’s the result of the crisis. Let’s admit that we are a strange nation.”
“35 million dollars have been gathered. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be gathered even as much as the last year. Whatever… yesterday I have heard a few times that “they eat all the money and people get nothing of it.”
“It turns out that dozens of schools, hospitals, clinics, apartment buildings in the disaster zone, roads and water pipelines have been constructed only for Serzh and the company”, the blogger complains.
Download the mp3 version of this post, including an interview with the media lawyer, blogger David Sandukhchyan, or listen to it online by clicking the player icon below.
The Armenian Blogosphere radio program is back – after a holiday season, and back with a bang! One day before the memorable Armenia-Turkey football match, to which Serge Sargsyan has invited the Turkish president Abdulla Guyl, the program brings you updates and reactions from the Armenia-Turkey football match.
This 19th issue of the Armenian Blogosphere also features and interview with Simon Blogian, our prolific blogger-friend from USA. Download the podcast here or listen to it online below:
On July 21 a news conference was held at the presidential office marking the 100th day of Serzh Sarkissian’s presidency. 2 bloggers were invited to the press conference on equal terms with 38 journalists, making the number of invitees a symbolic 40. 40 questions were asked to the president – and bloggers were given the chance to get answers to 1 question each, on equal terms with journalists. In fact, considering that some pro-opposition media weren’t invited, including “Haykakan Zhamanak” newspaper which has the highest circulation among dailies in Armenia (the print-run is over 10,000 copies), the invited bloggers were ‘even more equal’ than some journalists. The precedent is surely unprecedented not only in Armenia, but accross most countries of the world.
It has to be said that Serzh Sargsyan had a blog established on his behalf even before he was sworn in as president of Armenia, collecting several hundred questions from Armenian bloggers on the shaky political situation after the disputed presidential elections held in February and the violent clashes between the opposition supporters and the police forces in capital Yerevan on March 1. With the initiative of Akunamatata_Ser, who remembered that back in March President Sargsyan had promised to answer the questions of bloggers again on his 100th day of presidency, around 50 questions were collected. As the blogger reports in another entry.
It turned out that the people on the helms of government actually look after us and even follow us. Today akunamatata_ser & pigh were invited to the presidential palace!!!!!! It turned out the fact that we remember and don’t forget the promises to bloggers hasn’t slipped the eye of the ‘big brother’
In an excited entry RealArmenia welcomes the participation of Armenian bloggers in the press conference, noteing, that “Armenia ,so far,becomes one of the rare country where the bloggers are going to be equal to journalists” and congratulating Sergey Chamanyan (akunamatata_ser) and Tigran Kocharyan (pigh) for the honor.
Not all accepted the news with the same type of excitement. An arrey of criticism and arguments broke out in the Armenian blogosphere.Nazarian remarked, that “The invited were palace bloggers serving the needs of the regime. The questions they asked obviously were pro-regime.” Unzipped went further, wondering “may be the real intention behind recent close engagements of presidential staff with few pro-government bloggers is to discredit blogs/blogging in the eyes of population, in general, from the beginning, without even allowing their further development.” Tumanyan has even looked forward 70 years and created a short negative-fantasy story in the best traditions of Orwell’s 1984.
Veteran journalist Mark Grigorian has initiated a more theoretical discussion on the acceptability of inviting bloggers, i.e. non-professional journalists to a press-conference, which pre-supposes at least a certain degree of professionalism. Mark Grigorian speculates, that although the invited bloggers have around the same numbers of readers as some newspapers, the blogs are still should not be considered as mass media:
The blog is not updated regularly (one day a blog might have several entries, on another days – none at all), the blogger might not necissarily be the author of information published on the blog, and the blog might not always contain inormation — we know that often blog entries are just photos or a link to a music video on YouTube, etc.
Hence blogging requires other skills, then those necessary for working in Mass Media. And that was perfectly illustrated on Armenian president’s press conference.
There is no logic in the appearance of bloggers in a presidential press-conference . If presidential spin-doctors consider bloggers full-fledged players in the information field and want to demonstrate their “transparency” by inviting bloggers, they should be aware, that this “transparency” is fully blown-up by the absence of pro-opposition journalists – who are undoubtedly NO LESS FULL-FLEDGED PLAYERS. If the presidential sprin-doctors view bloggers as civil-society, they should also invite other members of civil society and call it public consultations or something else, instead of inviting a press-conference.
In response to the wave of criticism, Pigh makes some valid points, saying he doesn’t respect most journalists because of their “unscrupulousness, non-professionalism and venal practices” and draws the picture of the experienced blogger, who has no editor slowing down and stopping from publishing any information, as there’s no salary involved at the end of the month. The blogger says his motive to attend the press-conference was to promote blogging and blogosphere, and he beleives the objective was reached. “Take it easy, people”, Pigh tells his critics, summerizing the acheivements:
Dear bloggers. It is so cool that we, positionists and oppositionsists, have stepped on the feet of journalists with our blogs. And even with our professionalism. I personally am flattered to see, that the number of my blog’s pageviews surpasses 90 percent of printruns of Armenian newspapers. It is great to be able to enter the blog, see a post and be able to express your agreement disagreement (instead of running to the courts and demanding refutation in the newspapers).  Virtual reality is slowly, but surely stepping on the feet of printed press. Progress, has slowly but surely penetrated here as well.
Quite predictably, the internet discussions over the past several days focused primarily on the congress held by opposition forces and the first public speech made by the opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian since the post-election violence on March 1st.
Opposition Congress, May 2, 2008 | Source: Unzipped
While speculating, that anyone “who made claims that they received 65% of the votes, accuses the present government of being murderers  but is not presenting evidence to back his claims, can not be taken seriously“, Martuni or Bust!!! looks at the overall context of the opposition congress, concluding:
It looks as if things have not really settled down since the fraudulent elections and the killing of March 1st. The noticeable unrest is going longer than I was expecting and who knows, maybe this time around the truth really will come out and those who need to be put in their place will finally get what they have coming.
Bringing a more comprehensive analysis, the Caucasus Knot speculates, that “the radical opposition appears ready to negotiate with the authorities in order to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence which left at least 10 dead“, and concludes, that this first public speech by Ter-Petrossian since the March 1 disturbances “certainly represents a more conciliatory line“:
Interestingly, Ter-Petrossian was reportedly more conciliatory towards the new president, Serge Sargsyan.  Ter-Petrossian instead directed his main attack on the former president, Robert Kocharian. Whether his words mark a realization from Ter-Petrossian that the radical opposition is unable to contest the outcome of the vote on the streets is a moot point.
Whatever the view, however, and whatever the numbers, there is the basis for discussion and negotiations in the form of Council of Europe Resolution 1609. In particular, it calls on the radical opposition to recognize the constitutional court ruling confirming the results of the presidential election as well as on the government to release those detained on purely political grounds. Another demand is for an independent inquiry into the 1 March riot to be held.
Marking the fact, that Levon Ter-Petrossian has “effectively expressed readiness for a dialogue based on PACE recommendations”, pro-opposition blogger Unzipped disagrees with the statement, “directly accepting PACE call to opposition to recognise the Constitutional Court’s decision which approved the election results” in the opposition leader’s speech, speculating, that:
“Fraud in elections was the main reason which sparked the protests, and ‘acceptance’ of its results for practical reasons to move forward cannot be considered as a precondition (and never presented as such by PACE) but rather a part of a final outcome of negotiations (with a package of measures aimed at democratisation of Armenian society).”
Known for his outspoken dislike of the first president, Pigh has singled out some soundbites in Ter-Petrossian’s speech, hinting, that such approaches are inconsistent with the “role” of the opposition leader, and are making him a “tool”, which works more in favor of the ruling Republican and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun parties:
One [of the soundbites] was directed at the US Government and the “Millenium Challanges” corporation, calling upon them to abstain from cutting aid to Armenia, as it will hurt the people, not the authorities.. Dashnak-Tool
Secondly – the first president spoke about the neighboring Azerbaijan in particular, noting, that Baku has to finally realize, that regardless the internal political situation in Armenia, “it would meet with a united resistance of the Armenian people in the event of unleashing a military aggression against Karabakh”
Interestingly, the issue of US assitance to Armenia has also drawn criticism from the highly pro-Ter-Petrossian blogger, Nazarian:
In the speech below, Levon Ter-Petrosian is against some of the things I have been advocating such as the stopping of the US economic aid to Armenia. I disagree with him and will continue to push for the (hopefully short term) halt of American taxpayer money propping up the banditocracy in Armenia. One of the best ways to modify someone’s behavior is through financial (dis)incentives.
And while Uzogh wonders, what has really triggered such a drastic change in LTP’s perceptions of current political realities, Unzipped on his turn, highlights the importance of the authorities’ response to opposition leaders apparent call for dialogue based on Counil of Europe Parliamentary Assembley recommendations:
How serious is Armenian government in terms of making necessary reforms and changes in accordance with the PACE recommendations, and engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, will be known on 10 May when a committee created by a decree of Serj Sargsyan will present its action plan.
“This day, 93 years ago, by detaining (and later shooting) the top Armenian intellectuals and politicians in Istanbul, the Ottoman government started the massive effort to uproot its entire Armenian population ordering it to march from the historic Armenian lands into the Syrian desert. The result was the mass killings, rapes, death by starvation, and exodus of survivors. The Armenian Genocide was accomplished. Practically no Armenians live now on the lands populated by their ancestors for at least two millennia…
‘”Many things happened yesterday. Among those probably the most important was Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration. For a lot of people though the important was that 40 days have passed since the deaths of 1 March riots.” – Armenian Patchwork
While it depended on the political orintation of the bloggers, to decide which of the events taking place yesterday was the most important for them, with the area around Yerevan’s Opera in almost total lock down, prime minister Serge Sargsyan was inaugurated as president in a ceremony and military parade that few citizens could even remotely get close to – so many of them were only able to cover the protest actions, rather then the grand inauguration ceremony. Raffi N at “Life in Armenia” has more:
Today was the official swearing in of Mr. Serge Sarksian as the new President of the Republic of Armenia. It really felt like an important event because ALL the streets were blocked… lots of police escorts…
Prevented from covering that event, as was the case for almost every other photographer in Yerevan, there was always the opposition memorial to the eight killed during post-election clashes on 1 March occurring adjacent to the French Embassy. Somewhat unfortunately for Sargsyan, not only did 9 April mark the day of the start of his presidency, but it was also the traditionally observed 40th day after the deaths.
It is natural, that celebrations are held on the day of president’s inauguration.
It is also quite frequent, that the opposition uses that day to stage protest actions and bring to the attention of the international community the problems of the country.
All of this happened today in Armenia. News agencies are reporting, that protest actions took place also outside of Armenia.
The protests, however, are not likely to affect the situation anymore, Mark Grigoryan writes in this analytical piece(ru), Serzh Sargsyan has become the President of Armenia, and that is now a fact. Nevertheless, there were 8 simulteneous protest actions in Yerevan, Bekaisa(ru) reports, including actions in front of the 1) RA Constitutional Court 2) Central Electoral Commission 3) OSCE office in Yerevan 4) European Union 5) US Embassy 6) Russian Embassy 7) French Embassy 8) Prosecutor’s office. Protests took place also in Kapan, Syunic region, as well as Kiyev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia – in front of the RA Embassies. Ahousekeeper also reports, that opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian supporters attempted to disrupt the baloon festival staged in the Republic square this evening, but were prevented from doing so by police forces, who quickly rounded them up. The blue sky festival did take place, and the Armenian Patchwork has photos to prove it.
President Sargsyan has a lot to do in a short amount of time. He has to win over the confidence of the vast number of citizens who have no faith in him whatsoever and who regard him as being a petty oligarchic-tyrant.
he has to prove that he can surpass in leaps and bounds everyone’s expectations and, most noteworthy, ensure that the downtrodden—namely those living in far-off rural parts of Armenia—start living better, fruitful lives. Cracking down on corruption is something that is high on most everyone’s list of things for him to do. But seeing as the mayor of Yerevan—the one who has thrown the city into transportation mayhem with ludicrous, ill-planned road projects that are rumored to be money-laundering schemes—will apparently remain in office there is already cause for suspicion.
F5 blog(am) is even more sceptical – the new president won’t be able to change anything it speculates, while Unzipped is finding it even hard to beleive, that Serzh Sargsyan will be able to stay in power for long:
You just can’t stick to the power relying on a physical force. Well, you may for a while, but only for a while. No lasting solution could be based on force and violence. There is no alternative to democracy in Armenia.
Some bloggers are more pragmatic though – Martuni or Bust!!! is quite sure of the opposite:
Though there are still many unanswered questions regarding the legitimacy of the election which landed him the post of President and the events that followed that he was directly behind, I really believe that as usual and in a very short period of time, most will forget what happened and it will be business as usual.
For strange and mysterious reasons, despite years of existence of a very lively Armenian blogging community, the predominant languages of Armenian bloggers have been Russian and English, rather then native Armenian. The picture has started to change over the recent month however, a range of blogs writing in Armenian have sprang up, and one can now get a variety and diversity of opinion and information reading only Armenian language Armenian blogs. Needless to say, that I’m very happy to see such a development, and want to present here a number of links to some really excellent Armenian Language Blogs. Read them, comment them, encourage them: