JOURNALISTIC ASSOCIATIONS OF ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND TURKEY SIGNED A COOPERATION PROTOCOL
On November 8 in Ankara the leaders of four organizations – Yerevan Press Club, “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan, the Association of Diplomacy Correspondents of Turkey and Turkish Democracy Foundation signed a Cooperation Protocol, aimed at facilitation of establishing specific forms of interaction among the journalists of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, initiation of a dialog among various professional sectors and politicians of the three countries.
The draft of the Protocol was developed by the participants of the third finalizing round table meeting held in Yerevan in early September. The first two similar meetings of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Turkish journalists took place in late June in Baku, Istanbul and Ankara. The round table series under the general title of “The Role of Media in Overcoming the Regional Conflicts and Eliminating the ‘Enemy Image’” was organized under a homonymous project initiated by Yerevan Press Club and “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan and supported later by the Association of Diplomacy Correspondents of Turkey and Turkish Democracy Foundation. The project was funded by Open Society Institute Network Media Program (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 8-14 and June 23-29, 2001). The priority tasks of this program included the discussion of various aspects of the relations of the three countries of the region, also from the perspective of their coverage by media.
The Cooperation Protocol is an attempt to contribute to the settlement of existing problems and relieving the tension in the societies of the three countries through various joint journalistic initiatives. The parties to the Protocol have agreed:
– To sustain from the methods of propaganda war and to apply the principles of objective journalism;
– To support every effort of dialogue and rapprochement between their three countries;
– To contribute to the establishment of direct contacts and cooperation between the journalists and the media of the three countries, to facilitate mutual visits and the implementation of joint journalistic programs;
– To stimulate the establishment and the development of the dialog among the political figures and the general public of the three countries, adhering to the well-known principles of “Journalists for Peace”;
– To continue round table meetings in respective capitals and other cities of the three countries with the aim and intention of enhancing understanding and thus helping to create an atmosphere that will help the initiation and development of cooperation between the various professional sectors and politicians of the three countries.
To achieve the goals stipulated a Coordination Office is established to organize the further joint activities of the three professional NGOs – Yerevan Press Club, “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan and the Association of Diplomacy Correspondents of Turkey. The Coordination Office operates on bi-annual rotation basis. Starting from the signing date, its functions are undertaken by the Turkish party, then – by the Armenian and the Azerbaijan party.
The urgency of the issue of adequate media coverage of the events linked to the relations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey was confirmed on the very next day of Protocol signing. The incorrect phrasings used by “Turkish Daily News” newspaper (issue dated November 9, 2001) immediately caused a negative response of the Armenian “Hayots Ashkhar” daily (issue dated November 10, 2001). In particular, “Turkish Daily News” mentioned that the protocol signed is an agreement of Turkish, Armenian, Azerbaijani journalists. Meanwhile, specific journalistic associations were the ones who agreed on the cooperation, and not all their colleagues in the three countries support them in this. Besides, the document was named “Ankara protocol” by “Turkish Daily News”, while it contains no link to the place where it was signed. This fact shows how some misinterpretations, which seem quite harmless, may interfere with an important cause, and how careful the journalists must be when writing on the complex problems of our region.
MEDIA’S INADEQUATE RESPONSE TO THE BAKU MEETING
On October 29 – November 1 the third and final meeting of journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh took place at “Gandglik” International Tourist Centre near Baku. The meeting was organized in the frames of “Karabagh Conflict in the Mirror of Media and Public Opinion in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh” project.
As it has already been reported, one-year project is carried out since February 2001 by Yerevan and Baku Press Clubs with the participation of Stepanakert Press Club. The project is supported by Open Society Institute Network Media Program.
The research implemented within the project focused on public opinion polls, surveys among decision makers and monitoring of leading media in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh with the aim of exposing and comparing attitudes of the broad public, experts and media concerning Karabagh conflict resolution.
Participants of the project presented at the Baku meeting their reports containing finalized data based on surveys results, media monitoring and their comparative analysis. The research materials are supposed to be published as a brochure in English and Russian. Some of the most interesting facts will be included in the next issue of YPC Weekly Newsletter.
While the working part of the meeting in Baku passed successfully, the atmosphere around it created by a number of Azerbaijani media proved to be ultimately unhealthy. Unfortunately, visit of Armenian and Mountainous Karabagh journalists which pursued merely business objectives was politicized and used for escalation of antiarmenian hysteria and various provocations.
In connection with one of the articles in Baku “Zerkalo” daily (November 2, 2001) Yerevan Press Club has released a statement (see Special Issue of the YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 7, 2001). Boris Navasardian, YPC President, said at a meeting with journalists in Yerevan on November 13 that the possibilities of people diplomacy have been exhausted in the given situation, and the peacemaking visit exchanges solely increase the tension instead of easing it. At the same time journalists’ working trips and information exchange in various forms are still actual and important, and YPC will continue to support them.
RA GOVERNMENT PASSED A RESOLUTION ON PRIVATIZATION OF NEWSPAPER STALLS
The November 15 session of the Government of Armenia passed a resolution on privatization of newspaper stalls belonging to the Press Dissemination Agency (“Haymamoul” State Close Joint Stock Company). To remind, a few months ago the RA Ministry of State Property submitted a privatization project to the Government (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 15-21, 2001).
Thus, 306 newspaper stalls are to be privatized in a two-month period, and the stall vendors will be given an advantage. The privatization will be conducted under the following procedure: within one month, purchase contracts will be signed with “Haymamoul”; the price of the stalls will be gradually discharged in the course of five months, one half of it to be paid off within the first month. One of the requirements is that at least for five years the stalls hold on their direct function, i.e. keep on selling newspapers and magazines even if the stall owner is changed.
The finances generated from privatization “Haymamoul” will proportionally allocate to clear off the current credit obligations of the Agency to the print media.
The session also heard the issue of privatization of the “Haymamoul” shares. The Ministry of State Property was assigned to submit recommendations on the subject to the Government in a three-month period.
COURT PROCEEDINGS ON THE CASE OF SHUSHANIK ABRAHAMIAN-HAIRAPETIAN VERSUS “ARMENPRESS” NEWS AGENCY ENDED
In the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan the proceedings on the suit of journalist Shushanik Abrahamian-Hairapetian versus “Armenpress” news agency ended. The demand of the plaintiff was her restoration in the job previously occupied and compensation of the salary for the unintended idleness.
As it has already been reported, the dismissal notice (on the basis of contract expiration) of Shushanik Abrahamian-Hairapetian was dated June 29, 2001; however, it was given to the journalist only on July 12. Till that time she went on with her duties. By this, in the opinion of the plaintiff, one of the stipulations of the RA Labor Law Code was violated (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 22-28, 2001).
On the session of November 2 the judge at chair Edik Avetisian made a decision of refusing to satisfy the claim, since the actions of the respondent were in line with the Law.
Shushanik Abrahamian-Hairapetian does not at all agree with this decision and is going to appeal it at the RA Court of Appeal. “I think the Law was on my side, while the judge was on the side of the “Armenpress” director”, Shushanik Abrahamian-Hairapetian said, adding that she plans to hold a press conference jointly with her lawyer and ask the colleagues for support.
“HAYRENIK TV”: A CHANNEL FOR CHILDREN AND WITH NO COMMERCIALS
Recently a new channel came to replenish the Armenian television market: starting November 10, the private “Hayrenik TV” company launched permanent broadcasting (it had been on test airing since May 2001). The owner of “Hayrenik TV” is the famous Armenian businessman, head of “Grand Tobacco” company Hrant Vardanian who acquired last year the shutdown television station “Mayr Hayrenik”. Not only did the new television company change its name. It also underwent a complete equipment modernization to comply with today’s standards. The founder of “Hayrenik TV” is “Grand Holding” whose President is the businessman himself, his sons Mikayel and Karen Vardanians being Vice-Presidents. Karen Vardanian also leads the television company holding the Executive Director’s position there.
“Hayrenik TV” is broadcasting on the 21st UHF and is exclusively oriented at the children audience. As YPC was told by the Deputy Executive Director Vladimir Ohanyan, the programming of the TV company includes, among others, 8 self-produced programs, while another 22 are to be launched in the future. And, what is more – no violation whatsoever.
In addition to the above said, “Hayrenik TV” not only became the first children’s channel in Armenia, but also does not intend to allocate airtime to advertising.
ARMENIAN TV AUDIENCE PREFERS TV SERIES AND MOTION PICTURES
In early November the NGOs Internews Armenia and Center of Social Technologies summarized the findings of panel diary survey of the audience of the TV channels present on the Armenian air. The survey was conducted from July 16 to August 12, 2001, and covered 436 families (1844 respondents), residing in Yerevan and 12 other cities and townships of Armenia. The panel itself was represented by 485,000 households owning TV sets.
Considering the specifics of TV channel receipt when analyzing the audience of the whole country, the channels whose broadcast zone covers the whole or practically the whole territory of Armenia were selected into a separate group. These are the Public Television of Armenia, private “Prometheus” TV company and the Russian RTR. At the same time significant competitiveness of the local television was revealed – a fact that in the opinion of the researchers should begin attracting advertisers. Thus, in the second largest city of Armenia Gyumri (the administrative center of Shirak region) the local channels “Shant” and “Tsayg” are competing for 30-40% of the audience.
The research determined the leader programs of each week. Certain general trends of TV viewing show that when choosing a program for daily consumption the audience prefers the entertaining function of the TV – the TV series (especially those with Armenian dubbing) and motion pictures as well as is interested in purely informational programs.
The morning prime time for all channels is located in the interval of 10.00-12.00 and gathers from 4% to 10% of the day’s TV audience. The vast majority of the viewers prefers evening time (18.00-23.30), when certain programs (TV series, motion pictures) may collect over 30% of the day’s audience.
The research authors believe that the channels are competing for the average TV viewer, betting mostly on the TV series and motion pictures. Such programming policy may soon exhaust itself. The researchers think that an effective form of competition for the TV viewer may be the orientation of the TV channel on specific target audience, with the segmentation made on socio-demographic characteristics and the interests.
A similar research was conducted by Internews Armenia and Center of Social Technologies in May, 2000, and the plans are to have annual media measurements of this kind.
JOURNALISTS TELLING ABOUT THEMSELVES
In November the results of another research were summarized – the survey among Armenian journalists conducted by the Association of Investigative Journalists of Armenia in July, 2001, with a sample of 55 representatives of 27 print and electronic media of the country. Most of the respondents have been practicing journalism for five years and more, and most of them have higher professional education. According to the analysis of the primary data, made by independent media expert Laura Baghdasarian, the following picture can be traced.
The journalists were practically unanimous (96.4%) in mentioning that the modern Armenian media have unsolved problems, the foremost among which are the financial issues (31%), professionalism level (21%) and the imperfection of the media-related legislation (10.1%).
When noting the three major problems faced by print press, 37 times the high prices of newspapers were specified, 20 times – low confidence in the press. In 8 cases the problem of dissemination, the press focus on events in the capital only, poor management and such were mentioned.
72.7% of the respondents think that the sphere they are writing about receives satisfactory coverage in general. 16.4% were dissatisfied, 9.1% answered that “their” field is covered very well. Only one journalist found it difficult to answer this question. The reasons for bad coverage are given primarily as unsatisfactory professional level of journalists or lack of narrowly specialized journalists.
The question of “How do you assess the work of Armenian journalists?” was answered by 40% that the journalists’ “writing is adequate to the level of their remuneration”, 20% thinks that journalists are biased, and 7.3% think the journalists are objective.
A significant part of the respondents (47.3%) mentioned that the media they represent are partially independent. 29.1% think their media are independent. And only 10 out of 55 journalists said their media are dependent. At the same time, in the opinion of 41.8%, there are no independent media in Armenia, while 21.8% maintain the contrary. A significant proportion of journalists (30.9%) found this question difficult to answer or gave a dubious answer. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of the journalists (67.3%) think themselves to be independent, 12.7% found it difficult to answer whether they are free themselves, the same proportion admitted their dependence on subjective factors, by choosing the answer option of “not free from my own self”.
When asked, if there were cases when the materials written were not published, 49.1% gave a negative answer, 45.5% noted the irregularity of the publication of their stories.
Out of 55 respondents only four were positive in saying the media of Armenia are not corrupt, 12 found it difficult to answer. The remaining 39 think that there is corruption in the Armenian media, out of which 19 journalists note that there are few cases of corruption, 18 say that they are frequent and 2 answered “so far they are neither many nor few”. Among the corruption examples in the media the most popular answers were protectionism (74.5%) and bribery (14.5%).
Among the spheres hardest to access for information the journalists mentioned the legal (36.8%), the judicial (28.1%), the economic (16.6%) ones. The most closed agencies are the RA Ministry of Interior Affairs (28.3%), Ministry of Defense (22.4%) and the Prosecutor’s Office (16.4%). The most open structures are the National Assembly (15.4%) and political parties (11.8%). As the respondents note, the most frequent justifications for the refusals to give information are “unauthorized to answer ” (28.2%), “cannot give this information” (23.5%), “do not possess sufficient information” (23.5%), “it is state or official secret ” (15.3%) and “no time” (2.3%). The question of “What do you do when refused information?” was answered by the majority of journalists (48.7%) as publishing the fact of refusal, 21.1% said they address higher bodies of the information source, 11.8% rely on principle “information is worth any price paid”. None of the respondents has ever attempted to defend their right to receipt and dissemination of information in the court.