Public TV Breaks Tradition: New Year’s Eve Without Catholicos’s Speech

Tigranuhi Martirosyan

Journalist, SMM specialist

For many years, it has been a tradition in Armenia for the New Year’s Eve speech of the president or prime minister to be preceded by the address of the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholicos. However, this year, the Catholicos of All Armenians’ message was not broadcast by Public Television before midnight. It is the first time this tradition has been broken since the country gained independence. 

The information department of Mother See reported that the Public Television Company had offered to present it during the evening edition of “News.” However, Mother See rejected the offer, deeming it “inappropriate.”

“The public television company informed us at the last minute that they would not be broadcasting His Holiness the Catholicos’s New Year’s message before midnight as it had been traditionally done. They did not provide any reason for this change. Instead, they proposed to present the Patriarch of All Armenians’s address during the evening edition of the News. However, this proposal was inappropriate for the Mother See and was rejected.”

According to Public TV, the speech of the Catholicos was meant to follow the speech of the President of RA, who is the head of the state as per the Constitution. However, on December 31, Father Vahram Melikyan, representing the Mother See, informed the Public Broadcaster Council that they disagreed with the scheduled time for the speeches. They demanded that the speeches not be broadcast and the video recording of the Catholicos’ address not be used since the speech’s copyright belonged to the Mother See.

“There is currently no legislation in Armenia that specifies the broadcasting of New Year’s messages. Therefore, every TV station is free to decide when and in what order to broadcast these messages. In this particular instance, the demand for the message was only related to the Public TV Company. Therefore, the Shoghakat TV channel under the Council and the Public Radio chose to broadcast the message, and the verbal request regarding the Public TV Company was fulfilled. Given the strong response from the people, we suggest that this issue be addressed and regulated in the legislative field.”

According to Boris Navasardyan, the honorary president of the Yerevan Press Club, any changes in traditions should only be made based on public opinion and studies of possible consequences. He stated that the Public TV company’s representatives’ claims that the broadcasting of the New Year’s address of the Catholicos is subject to legislative regulation could have been accepted if they had devised such an initiative in advance and made it the subject of multi-faceted discussions. They should have maintained the rooted practice until the actual completion of the law.

Public TV has not explained the change in the broadcast time of the address. As a result, the incident is becoming more politically charged. It is rumored that the relationship between the Apostolic Church and the government has been tense, and this incident serves as evidence of that.

 After the 44-day war, the Catholicos called for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation. Following this, some high-ranking clerics joined opposition demonstrations with the same demand. In response, Pashinyan suggested that the church should form a political party if it wants to engage in politics. As a result, the Prime Minister and the Catholicos stopped participating in events together.

In his message to the nation that was never aired on Public TV, the Catholicos addressed the issue of the occupation and depopulation of Artsakh. “Let us surround our brothers and sisters forcibly displaced from Artsakh with love and care. Let us give them hope that they can return to their native Artsakh and keep their faith in God strong”, urged the Catholicos Garegin II in his speech.

Meanwhile, the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the President are available on Public TV’s “News” YouTube channel. Still, the video message of the Catholicos has not been posted.

Tigranuhi Martirosyan

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