March 12, 2008
To: Government of Armenia,
Armenia TV and Haylour
To whom it may concern,
The members of the Armenian community in Sweden have with great regret followed the development of the latest presidential elections in Armenia. For a long time the election campaigns seemed to be at least the most active during the entire post independence period and were, despite the still existing shortcomings, regarded as a highly positive step in right direction for democratization of the country where the people for the first time displayed their interest for the topical news and their active participation in the election. However, that soon showed to be a short-lived euphoria.
First and foremost, let it be known that we do not either advocate the opposition or any other particular parties in the election and do not intend this letter as a political statement. This letter is solely aimed at the office of the government and the media reporting, their duties and obligations to safeguard democracy and freedom of speech in Armenia. In the current situation the issue seems to have deviated from the real problem, disregarding the institutions in question and instead focusing on individuals. Living in Sweden, considered one of the foremost developed and transparent democracies on the globe, one soon learns that all parties, government or opposition, right or left, 1) work towards the same goal of a prosperous Sweden, 2) everyone has the right to speak up their minds, regardless of this taking 1 day or 1 year 3) even the farthest distance between government and opposition never results in gagging the opposition 4) media is obliged to present a neutral and objective picture of the situation. As citizens of a country which many other nations look up to and praise as a role model for a free and democratic nation, the unfolding events of the past weeks in Armenia are nothing but utterly unacceptable behavior, unbecoming of an Armenia in the 21st century. The declaration of a state of emergency, shooting unarmed demonstrators, and imposing an almost dictatorship-like state-censorship is unbecoming of a republic which Armenia claims to be. That Armenia is depicted as yet another post-Soviet oligarchic-ruled state is not a flattering image that the Armenian Government should strive for.
As far as it concerns the Armenian Public Service TV and in particular the news coverage of Haylour, both during the election campaign and that of the unrest on March 1st and the following days, one can not help but strongly criticize the heavily one-sided, biased reporting that the Haylour has allowed itself to deliver. Once more, we do neither endorse nor defend the actions of the obvious vandals and opportunists who committed the lootings and destruction which followed the unrest, and strongly condemn their actions. However, we feel that it is highly odd that not once, the media allowed the opposition to come forward and condemn (or not if they so wish) the happening, thus setting the record straight whether they defended those actions or dissociate from and condemned them. As a description text of the Public Service TV of Sweden, it is stated that “One of the most important points is ‘to scrutinize authorities, organizations and private firms which exert influence over policy affecting the public, and cover the activities of these and other bodies.’” Sorry to say, but the Armenian TV is parsecs from living up to that standard. Armenia 1 TV and Haylour in particular have done nothing to further agitate and contribute to the current situation in Armenia, smearing all and everyone that has not endorsed government policy. Thus, the public TV and news agency bear an equal responsibility in destabilizing the country. If anything, now that the H1 broadcasting is targeting people living abroad, mostly in developed democratic countries, any sensible, clear-minded person soon starts to question the one-sided reporting and how it comes that no one from the opposition (or for the sake of the argument “the accused”) is given the opportunity to explain and defend themselves?
And finally, that almost all media, radio, and internet sites, such as Armenialiebrty.org and even Youtube are blocked are signs of great concern. We ridiculed and condemned less developed democracies, such as the decision of Turkish Government for doing the same over the Armenian Genocide when the Turkish Government blocked Youtube for “protecting their citizens from untruthful lies.” Do Armenia and the Armenian Government now resorting to the same action? And do does the Armenian Government genuinely believe that the internet sites and the information and the documented news, images, and videos therein will disappear just because the Armenian public in Armenia are prohibited from accessing them? And how long will the prohibition last and then what? The information, the images and the videos will still be there and the general public will eventually learn about all the facts, presented from all perspectives, pro and con.
We welcomed the initiative taken by the Armenian Government to invite all parties to join a coalition which would work for the common goal of taking Armenia forward towards a better future. That the Government resorted to violence and now is implementing actions unbecoming a “republic,” does not fit the image which the Armenian Government, Armenia 1 TV or Haylour are advocating or we as Armenians strive and hope for. Thus, we urge that the Government of Armenia considers completely lifting the state of emergency, allow freedom of speech even for those who do not share the governmental view, and to engage in resolving the situation by peaceful dialogues. What transpired in Yerevan is still by many regarded as unbelievable. The Armenian authorities, regardless of who and what party that holds the post of president or government, must come to realize that they serve one entity and one entity alone: the people of Armenia. It is the people of Armenia who have the right to pass judgment on any political party in the country, empower or dismiss any president or government, since, after all, these offices are elected by the general public. The soon this fact is realized the sooner we can start combating corruption, poverty and anarchy which prevails in Armenia and work for a democratic, prosperous and stable and strong nation worthy of rich cultural and historic heritage that we have inherited.
The Board of the Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden
*Unzipped - This letter has initially been posted here on 10 March 2008. However, it turned out to be a draft version, therefore the letter was removed and initial post was put on hold. Today - 13 March 2008 - I received a final approved version of this open letter and decided to re-publish it in place of my previous post. [emphasis mine]