By Anahit Danielyan
The fact, that the year of 2011 had brought nothing new or nothing positive to the Artsakh media, has been stressed more than once by representatives of same media. They also point out that although some progress has been seen in various spheres, mass media have suffered an obvious regress.
Certainly, it should not be considered as the lesson of just 2011, as far as it is not the first year when the situation with Artsakh media has been poor so far. That is why it would not be fully correct to blame only journalists, many others have made their “contribution” into the regress. Political forces are not active in the work with journalists; only a few of MPs show readiness to answer their questions. The rest of them just try avoiding to communicate with journalists: one dislikes that he is pictured during their work, the other might say that he is not a political figure and is unable to make comments (meanwhile he is a party leader and member of a parliamentary faction), and the third one is ready to complain but, Heaven forbid!, not publicly… This list can be continued, but let us pass to the other “wing”.
No question that the authorities also can be blamed for the inability of media to move forward: there are quite a lot of persons in various governmental bodies, not only unwilling to provide information to journalists, but also trying to impede their work one way or another. Last year I wrote about an incident, when the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, former Deputy Chief of the Police, tried to obstruct the work of the journalist. It seemed that the CEC should be one of the open bodies in the country, and it had been such before the appointment of the mentioned chairman. However, the practice shows that a supervisor is able to change a lot. We have an additional question whether the new chairman changed the style of the CEC work “on his own,” or it was wished so “from above.” However, he has not been dismissed from his position for using “police ways” in his work. “Well, what can we do? The man’s nature cannot be changed…”– this is how they justify the style of that and other officials’ work.
One of the important lessons of 2011 was the criticism of the Chief Information Department (CID) under the NKR President, which spread the news about NKR President Bako Sahakyan’s participation in the opening ceremony of “Hayastan” supermarket in Moscow. “Certainly, nobody is against Bako Sahakyan’s presence at shop opening ceremonies, but why did they spread an official information about it, as far as the participation of the President of the country (even a non-recognized one) in such a ceremony cannot be a serious indicator for that country record? Karabakh is a small, non-recognized country, but it is a state that claims to become a serious state. This means that reports about the President of that country should cover serious events, and not openings of shops,” – Lragir.am wrote.
It is the evidence that the work of the Information Department leaves much to be desired. To say nothing of the practice that a manager is stricken from the “rear” by his own people, whose responsibility is just to be that rear: the above mentioned case is a obvious evidence of that. And this is true for not only the CID, but the other structures as well. It is difficult to find press-secretaries, even trying to work in a proper manner; so the institute of press-services, in general, can be evaluated as extremely poor. Press-secretaries often display passivity by the request of their supervisors, working only with some mass media, forgetting or ignoring the others or remembering them only when necessary. Sometimes they are such on their own.
Last year there was another unique case, related to the work of press-services, and it was widely discussed, i.e. an incident with the head of the Press-service of the NKR Foreign Ministry, who in an interview with a Yerevan-based newspaper could not contain himself and used unacceptable language. The news about it was spread quickly in papers and caused a wave of criticism.
Our next “stop” is the mass media themselves, most precisely, their managers, trying their best in the efforts to hamper the work of their own reporters: as a result, it is almost impossible to find materials to describe the real life in Artsakh or cover the problems concerning the people, living there, on the air or on the pages of newspapers. We can recall that once last year an Artsakh public radio reporter found herself under a tough pressing and was even punished by the Chairman of the Public TV Council just for a harmless question, whether the First Lady would vote or not. By the way, it is not the first such experience that the mentioned reporter has got: according to her, the Council once discussed the question of her dismissal for a report about the Police, which was not written in a “positive” manner.
Unfortunately, it is just the managers of mass media who quite often discredit the information field: be it out of fear, the intention to please the authorities and not to lose their profitable jobs. All this leads to the degradation of mass media; many of them already resemble the Soviet media, most of journalists display conformism and some, getting tired of struggle, are not active as they have been before. So against such a backdrop, those journalists who publish materials about the life and problems of people, criticizing the authorities and presenting people’s dissatisfaction, are treated as opposition. And this is the best option, because they are mostly called spies or traitors.
The above is what has been spoken about publicly, but journalists can recall many incidents of that kind. Nearly two dozen journalists mentioned many of such cases during their meeting with the NKR President. They informed him about the problems and obstacles in their work. The President promised that problems would be gradually settled, but nothing has been changed so far. Even those problems that required neither special efforts, nor time, just goodwill, have not been resolved. So the lack of any improvement and the worsening trend mean that there is no desire to do so, and that the issues raised during the meeting have not been properly addressed. As a result, more or less professional journalists from the mass media, financed from the state budget, simply do nothing, at the same time continuing to work. However, some new people come up to take their place, but the best example of their work is the present day Artsakh TV.
Anуway, the year was not only marked with lessons. There were positive moments as well: for example, journalists were not beaten last year, they were not thrown to jail, i.e. there was no direct physical pressure. In addition, we have a new newspaper. And another good event: Hrant Aleksanyan’s book “Information from the non-recognized country” was published.
These are the lessons that, as it seems to me, might have some importance to avoid mistakes in the future, to change the situation in the information field and ensure the progress surely required for the development of democracy in the country, the need of which is so much spoken about.