Journalist or Freedom Fighter?

Gegham Vardanyan

Physicist by education, journalist by occupation

Four journalists staged a protest in parliament today while Armenia’s National Assembly was voting on the ratification of three gas agreements between Armenia and Russia.

The journalists against the agreements with Russia’s Gazprom held signs which read “Come to your senses, ara,” “We are the ones who decide,” and “Don’t sell [it].” During the voting, journalists in the media chamber overlooking the auditorium held a larger sign that read “Don’t vote for Russian gas.”

The ratification of the gas agreements, indeed, is one of the most important political news of the end of the year — it truly affects, angers, and infuriates citizens of the Republic of Armenia. And journalists working at the National Assembly are citizens of the Republic of Armenia. During the voting in parliament, they probably, it should be understood, were acting as citizens and not as journalists.

But, in my opinion, the journalist who has political views should have determined beforehand, on that day is he holding political signs or working in journalism? Is he a journalist or a freedom fighter?516 

Yes, a journalist can have political views. Yes, a journalist can participate in political demonstrations. At the same, a journalist who is in a place in his position as a journalist (and in parliament there are no journalists who do not have a professional purpose, as journalists need to be accredited in parliament), should not get involved in political processes; he or she should not take sides.

I think, it’s clear: when reporters covering an environmental protest put aside their camera, audio recorder, pen and paper, and pick up a poster, or when journalists hold up signs with political content in the National Assembly auditorium, then at that moment they are not acting as journalists. At the very least they should not publish a news media piece about that event. These questions are also in the political domain of news outlets’ editorial offices.

I can also understand that speaking about journalistic ethics in Armenia is not always appropriate. First, news outlets that have a journalistic Code of Ethics are few and far between; second, in extreme cases (and the gas agreements were labelled as “treason”), recalling journalistic ethics is not appropriate. 

Instead of political signs, however, I would rather see quality journalism and journalistic investigations into the gas agreements.

Gegham Vardanyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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