A Distorted Media Mirror

By Edmond Y. Azadian

When Armenia attained independence, many Diasporan-Armenian organizations and experienced journalists moved to Yerevan to “liberate” the bland Soviet-style news media and restore its original mission. The newspapers, radio and TV broadcasting improved dramatically, in terms of formatting design, news gathering, reporting and above all, commenting freely. This much was a patriotic contribution, which Diaspora Armenians brought to Armenia.

But in a parallel rush, major powers introduced their own outlets, of course, to serve their own political interests. While the newspapers owned and operated by Armenian organizations have encountered funding challenges — consequently suffering in quality — foreign-funded news outlets flourish and are run professionally.

George Orwell’s Big Brother is omnipresent globally, tending its business and has not spared Armenia.

Open Society Foundation, Radio Liberty and other agencies operate freely in Armenia and common sense will dictate that they don’t care about the well being of the Armenian people nor the problems facing Armenia. They have recruited professional journalists, writers and commentators to toot their own horn.

For example, the Open Society Forum could feign to promote democracy in Eastern Europe and in Third World countries but in the end, it serves a greater political design.

The Open Society Forum is the brainchild of billionaire George Soros, who escaped tyranny in Hungary and made a fortune in the US. During the Bush-Cheney Administration, he demonstrably confronted the US administration in its foreign policy objectives. But in the meantime, his organization trained some youth and sent them to Ukraine and Georgia — and certainly to other parts of the world — to organize the Orange Revolution and the Rose Revolution, a feat that the US military power could not have achieved so easily.

Mr. Soros is entitled to use his money to spread his ideas around the world but he is not entitled to play with the destiny of the Armenian people who have suffered so much from major power rivalries, in their history.

The writers and commentators of these agencies may be sitting in Yerevan and Karabagh, but the brain may be on the remote control in Prague or in Washington.

The controlled news media does not operate in isolation — and no matter what lofty ideal it claims to pursue — it is part and parcel of the overall strategy of a major power.

We can easily make the connection with all the well-oiled religious sects, which penetrate like rodents in the fabric of the society in Armenia to decimate and to disorient the population. One treacherous act is to brainwash the youth to refuse to bear arms under the guise of conscientious objection, when Armenia is at war with its neighbors — not of its own choosing.

To cite a salient example, trading Armenia’s security against NATO’s objectives in the Caucasus we may refer to an article in lragir.am, an outlet funded by Open Society Forum. The article is entitled “Serious Geopolitical Prospect for Javakhk,” under the byline of Hakob Badalyan, a prominent political commentator.

Javakhk is an Armenian-populated region of Georgia. Historically it has changed hands between Georgia and Armenia. Currently more than half of the region is populated by Armenians; in cities like Akhatsikhe and Ninotsminda, Armenians account for 94.3 percent and 95.8 percent, respectively. The region was deliberately mismanaged and left economically depressed by Tbilisi authorities to force Armenians out of the area, fearful that Armenians would one day ask for autonomy or independence.

Until 2007, the city of Akhalkalak was home to a Russian military base, which provided jobs and security for Armenians in the region. Moscow precipitously moved out the base, before even its deadline in the treaty, leaving the Armenians to the mercy of the hostile Georgian government. Tbilisi’s harassment and Russia’s reckless move satisfied, to a certain measure, the Georgian government’s goal, as many destitute Armenians migrated to Russia for jobs and for security. Russia went to war with Georgia to give independence to South Ossetia and Abkhazia while the destinies of Javakhk and Ajaria were left in the hands of the Tbilisi government. President Saakashvili jailed human rights activist Vahakn Chakhalian and implemented policies to force the people out or to assimilate them under the guise of teaching them the Georgian language.

Despite a punishing war with Russia and despite a regime change, the new government in Tbilisi is looking for NATO presence on its territory, if not outright membership.

Armenians have enjoyed the “benefits” of having a NATO member in the Turkish border and now this writer is hailing a NATO move into the heartland of Armenians in Javakhk, as he writes: “NATO may empower itself with new tools of cooperation with non-member countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And it may mean that the North Atlantic Alliance will receive a possibility or prospect for being present in Georgia, though the latter is not a member. In this respect, Georgian military base in Akhalkalak has strategic importance because it is close to the Russian base in Armenia, is located in a place where Russian provocation against Georgia are probable, close to the conflict area of Artsakh which is one of the potential places of destabilization of the region.”

First NATO’s interference on the Southern Russian underbelly is the most flagrant provocation, and also, the writer should know better that even Washington blamed Saakashvili for the provocation, which triggered the 2008 war.

In a shortsighted conclusion, the writer jubilantly welcomes NATO’s extension in the region as a “stabilizing factor,” exactly at the moment when the defense ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey had been meeting in Nakhichevan to plan war games and tighten the noose around Armenia at NATO’s behest.

The conclusion is more ludicrous than the article itself as it states, “It would be interesting to observe the reactions of Russia, Javakhk and Armenia to the Georgian military base, who will torpedo the process full of prospects for regional balance for the sake of security of Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk and what the force will be.”

This concept fits in and complements the recent proposal by Ambassador James Warlick to introduce US Peacekeeping forces in Karabagh.

Adding insult to injury, the Open Society Forum has a hypocritical disclaimer at the bottom of the article, which reads, “The opinions and analyses expressed in these sections are those of the authors and are not approved by OSF-Armenia or its Board.”

When Open Society Forum cuts the payroll check of the writer, at least it is disingenuous to make such claims.

Hagop Badalian is a better-qualified writer. He deserves a more dignified job than peddling NATO wares in Armenia through a distorted media mirror.