Thoughts from the 5th Pan-Armenian Conference of Journalists


By Hagop Vartivarian

STEPANAKERT, Karabagh — It wasn’t easy, of course, to assemble approximately 200 journalists from 26 different countries in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabagh. After this year’s busy summer schedule of the Diaspora Ministry of the Republic of Armenia, in particular, immediately following the “Ari Tun” [Come Home] initiative and prior to the assembly of businessmen and heads of banks at the beginning of autumn, the organization of the fifth Pan-Armenian Conference of Journalists shows per se how indefatigable the minister, Hranush Hakobian, is. She tries, as much as possible, to do justice to the ministry’s commitments, giving equal weight to each initiative that has to do with Armenia-Diaspora-Artsakh ties.

Guided by experience, programs are developed with the expectation that they will achieve their main initial goals. If those programs turn out to be half successful, under today’s conditions we generally derive a feeling of satisfaction and consider them to be crowned with success. However, in this case, the conference held from October 12-16, whose them was “21st- Century Challenges, Informational Security and Armenian Journalism,” was convened to discuss important pan- Armenian issues, whose solution requires the marshaling of the journalistic potential of the Armenian people. At the same time, it is time to forget the nonsensical interparty strife of the past and the hidden internal political agendas so that we can create, with single-mindedness of purpose, international and national public opinion in favor of Armenia’s prosperity, Artsakh’s self-determination and the preservation of the diaspora. And, as the fourth estate, we should demand responsibility on the part of our mass news media, invite Armenians to take it seriously, in the first place, as regards to journalists. It is in this sense that it can be said that the conference registered a success.

Azg editor Hagop Avedikian speaks at the conference.

This conference provided an opportunity to focus our attention on the present issues of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic and, especially, to become acquainted with its strong institutions and factors. Meetings with NKR President Bako Sahakian, National Assembly President Ashot Ghoulian, Defense Minister Gen. Movses Hakobian, Foreign Minister Georgi Petrossian and Archbishop Parkev Martirossian, Primate of Artsakh, created opportunities, especially for us diasporan Armenian journalists, to know the real Artsakh and its struggle for survival. It was also an opportunity to enjoy the cultural life of the Armenians of Artsakh in both its classical and popular facets.

Journalists got to know their colleagues and their difficulties, which, in the diaspora, are generally of a financial nature. Added to this is the problem of enticing new blood into the journalistic profession. In the case of Artsakh too, the insufficiency of financial means is noticeable. Furthermore, in Armenia’s case, while the news media in the regions continue publishing by the traditional means in use prior to independence, there is an intense silent struggle in the capital between the pro-government and oppositionist press; the latter is a natural phenomenon in the democratic process, without becoming reduced to yellow journalism. The development and increased popularity of modern news media was noticeable. Television, the Internet and radio, particularly in the principal communities of the Middle East, have made many strides. For the first time too, the conference established contact between Stepanakert and the heads of the media working in Los Angeles, Beirut, Kuwait and the Arab Emirates.

It was a joy to see the large number of young journalists come from Armenia and Artsakh. Their interest in the work being done by those of us in the diaspora was surprising. Generally speaking, female journalists have begun to occupy their place in the journalistic field, as is the case in the United States during the past decade. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to establish closer contact with the heads of news media in the newly forming diaspora; i.e., the former Soviet Union, as well as the countries of Eastern Europe and Spain. There wasn’t enough time and, in a way, they remained congregated together around the table at meal times.

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Although there were plenty of reports, there wasn’t opportunity to carry on discussions, again due to time constraints.

On the other hand, the organizing committee had been able to create a balance in order to conduct the sessions, considering first the case of our traditional political parties and then trying to include those in charge of the news media in new communities and the journalists from the homeland. There was a warm atmosphere, especially in the evening hours, when journalists having come from different communities and regions had more of an opportunity to be with each other. A group of us friends experienced moments reminiscent of the Yerevan days we had known, full of song, recitation and toasts, with which those of our generation are familiar and, of course, especially Hakobian, when she was reciting Sevak and other great poets with genuine patriotic fervor.

Of course, the most experienced news media belonged to the three traditional political parties. Some of them are our respected official organs, which are a hundred years old or more. I was glad to see the heads of the newspapers of the Social Democrat Hunchak Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Democratic Liberal organization. When you follow the work done by each of them from afar, you feel that much more at home with those editors, especially when you become closely acquainted with them. You feel a spiritual union with them because we share the same national pains, we face the same challenges with regard to Armenian national preservation and we raise the same voice in claiming our national rights — we are the rightful owner of our historical Armenia and Cilicia. There, on the majestic mountains of Artsakh, finally there was no difference among us fellows, who were far removed from ugly internal inter-party strife; we were the heirs to that legion of yesteryear’s visionary intellectuals, who founded Armenia, Hunchak and Droshak party organs for their respective parties.

And finally the occasion arose to enjoy the monastery of Tatev, Shushi and the people of beautiful Artsakh.

Congratulations and thanks go to Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian and Journalists’ Union President Astghik Gevorkian for this enlightening occasion.

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