a walk down the center of Yerevan, and voices
of TV anchors reading news in Russian, occasionally
in English, will be heard from various apartments'
windows. Then visit Armenians born in Arab countries,
and Al-Jazzeera in their houses will be the main
voice of these days.
With the 24-hours news capacity to bring battlefronts
in each home and more media loyalty to governments,
the war in Iraq looks today more like a media
confrontation, as if between the Bush administration
and Hussein command, a Public Relations crusade
has been launched.
Both camps are trying to convince audiences that
the enemy lies in the other side and both camps
have extraordinary media support.
But in the midst of an intensifying discrepancy
between the Western and Arab media, still a third
model of covering the war in Iraq is making its
way through much endeavor and drawbacks. And no
battle similar to the one between CNN and Al-Jazzeera
is sensed here.
Criticizing the war, yet keeping the distance
in relation to Iraq is what some media experts
call today the Russian position, followed by a
number of countries among which Armenia is inclined
One explanation of this tendency given by Mark
Grigorian, a media analyst, is that few Armenian
journalists speak other foreign languages than
Russian and, therefore, find it difficult to work
with Western or Arab sources of information. Also,
Russian newspapers have been for a long time regarded
as a touchstone by the Armenian media and changes
in its practices are not straightforward.
And the Russian prospect presented by the Armenian
media does not necessarily match with the one
presented by Armenian officials, who, steered
by their interests to have good relations with
all possible parties involved in the conflict,
depict a neutral position supporting the efforts
to disarm Iraq but only by peaceful means.
Some newspapers in Yerevan have even adopted
a tougher language. The Russian tabloid "Novoye
Vremya" (New Time), local edition, selects
news on the Iraqi issue from various sources including
Western publications but is categorically against
the war and the US. "How can one accept the
war if civilians die?" rails its editor-in-chief
Ruben Satyan who calls to mind that the war in
Iraq is a "pure hypocrisy". And the
whole team of "Novoye Vremya" follows
this guiding principle.
Haroutiun Khachatryan, editor-in-chief of Noyan
Tapan Highlights, an English-language weekly,
is more middle-of-the-road than Satyan, saying
that his publication "has no political preferences"
and that it "tends to present all available
information and all points of view".
Grigorian believes that undertaking an external
position by the Armenian media, is also related
to the lack of professionalism. "Covering
war in Iraq is professional", he says but
although Iraq is making the news everywhere in
the world, Armenian media did not send its reporters
on the front by the simple reason that it has
no money. So, "indeed, Armenian newspapers
cover the war", says Grigorian, "with
the exception that it provides an indirect and
And journalists realizing the impact of their
work today feel bad for not being able to go to
Iraq. Yuri Gasparyan, who is a free-lance photographer
from Yerevan, says he will never forgive himself
for staying at home while the war is going on.
"I lost the opportunity to go to Afghanistan,
now to Iraq, I cannot believe the world is going
upside down and I am here."
Whether it has no money or lacks experience in
having correspondents abroad, the Armenian media
leaves little choice to its readers, who rely
on stories provided by foreign journalists or
articles taken from foreign newspapers, which
many times are not satisfactory if the reader
wants to know where his country stands in this
And Armenia is not on a different earth than
Iraq. It is separated by Iran only. And if the
news about war is of a general interest to any
reader, then the Armenian one is longing for news
ranging from the stability in the region, which
has a direct impact on his own country and to
the Armenian community in Iraq.