ABOUT WHAT? SHAKING THE TABOOS ON NATION-ARMY AND THE ARMY

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The rather intensive discussions in October – November 2017 shook the taboo on discussing army issues also at official level. The media platforms started to voice issues related to the army that were typical only of the Armenian social network domains before: corruption loopholes in the army and during draft, issues of supplies for the military servicemen and provision with necessary items, dislocation in more or less dangerous segments of the army, the social security for the people who participated in the wars in Karabakh, the diversified attitute to soldiers and especially to high-ranking officers, civilian oversight of the army and so on.

The media had never covered the Armenian army and its issues with such intensity before, by the way with the reactions and participation of the representatives of other ranks from the country’s military department.
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The information provision continued with reference to topics that seemed “off the agenda”. These topics emerged primairly because of the draft legilsation initiatives within the framework of Nation – Army and did not immediately reflect the provisions fixed in those bills. For example, the topic of army evasion was addressed not only in relation to the limitation of/significant change in the right to deferral (addressing how as a tangible and pure outcome this is going to contribute to the strengthening and enhancement of the defense capacity of the army), but the general situation around social justice (ordinary people’s children are taken to the army, whereas officials’ children are not and if they join the army, they serve in very comfortable conditions), the social elevator (the majority of present officials have not served in the Armenian army, hence the completion of military service shall be a precondition for promotion into public offices), corruption loopholes (protectionism, formuations of fake health grounds), and the system of education and science in Armenia as a whole. The topic of army evasion was discussed even more actively at the end of October due to the Facebook statements made by former Defense Minister S. Ohanyan’s wife, military doctor R. Khachatryan about a top-ranking official (his name was hinted at), referring to the latter’s evasion of the army at the time of his draft whereas now this person insisted on the need for the right to deferral. Online media referred to the evasion issue multilaterally, unlike TV stations that did not take up the few notes that generated a wave of discussion on the Internet.

On the occasion of a number of speeches made at the National Assembly on this topic the press addressed the point on whether various RA officials and their sons had served in the army or not, approximately in the manner in which it published information on the financial capacity of this or that candidate during the elections. The topic of army evasion was a unique process of lustration the Minister of Defense did not overt. The certificate on his military service/non-service, the conditions and the place of service were officially published upon the inquiry of a Member of the Parliament from the oppositional YELQ alliance.

Domestic political comments were proposed in the judgments on the resignation/or possible resignation of high ranking officials in the army, in the materials about the past and present leaders of the defense system, the former and the incumbent Ministers, in the publications about the power system transformations anticipated in the Nation – Army context in 2018.

The issue of the conscription/deferral also contributed to rather intensive discussions of unprecedented scope and depth on education. There was no significant difference among the approaches of the online media and TV in this regard. As a whole, the media outlets provided a detailed discussion on all the issues of scientific development in Armenia, the deficiencies in the education system, up to mentioning that unlike Western higher educational instiutions, in Armenian universities Professors deliver lectures, and PhD students conduct seminars. Whereas, the opposite is the right scenario. The students’ protest-actions and hunger strikes in October – November also became an occasion for referring to domestic political struggle, civil movements, freedom of speech and other issues, too.

The apprehensions related to domestic issues and rights (this concept will lead to the militarization of the society, that the civil freedoms cannot be protected in a militarized state, the rights are subjected to obligations and so on) were voiced much more rarely, being ahead of only three/four groups of issues in online media and TV programs by number. In online media, those topics were history, church, the Diaspora, the coverage of the army, and in TV programs, these were the coverage of the army, the Diaspora, and the armies of other countries. In both online media outlets and TV programs, the army of Azerbaijan occupies higher positions.

In materials about the army, conscription/draft, the issues related to the incidients and reduction of tensions on the Karabakh conflict line of contact, issues of education and security, the stories on trials and court decisions passed on offenses in the army occupied the first 5 lines in the rankings of frequency of issues raised in materials on the army. In the case of TV programs the Karabkh conflict is in the first five lines (from the above-mentioned perspective) followed by the military service and conscription, education, security, and social issues.

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