The incident with Anna Hakobyan And Her Daughter In Tsitsernakaberd: Journalists Should Uphold Ethical Standards

An incident occurred on April 24 at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex, attended by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakobyan, and their youngest daughter. While they were visiting the memorial, a group of citizens began chanting “Genocidal Nikol!” and “Nikol the Turk!”.

The discussions on social networks were divided. One side argues that individuals have the right to express their political opinions in any medium. In contrast, the other side believes that labeling people is not freedom of speech but rather an expression of hate speech.

The incident gained wide media coverage after Anna Hakobyan and her daughter were greeted with offensive chants. Several media outlets emphasized the people’s attitude and many individuals did not stop recording during live broadcasts to showcase their emotions and reactions at that moment.

Following the incident involving the Prime Minister’s daughter, a new trend emerged on social media. People who didn’t show their support for her started sharing pictures of other children, such as those affected by the 44-day war, displaced children from Artsakh, or children living in the border villages of Tavush. They urged others to show empathy towards these children instead.

Was the phenomenon a violation of ethics? To discuss this topic, we interviewed Ashot Melikyan, president of CPFE, and Boris Navasardyan, honorary president of YPC. 

Chairman of the Freedom of Speech Protection Committee Ashot Melikyan

Anna Hakobyan attended the commemoration ceremony with a young child. Of course, the so-called “patriots” should have considered that. Such behavior is unsuitable for civilized human relations.

The chanted slogans contained deliberate insults; slogans containing intentional insults are subject to liability under Article 1087.1 of the Civil Code.

The incident was an instance of hate speech. I doubt that the individuals chanting these slogans have a full understanding of the term “genocide.” Such behavior is nothing but a display of impertinence, which should not be tolerated. I believe that those responsible should face legal consequences and public condemnation.

People have the right to express themselves freely, which includes political speech. However, it is important to remember that this does not give anyone the right to insult or express hatred towards others. There is a clear line where a person’s dignity, honor, and reputation begin, and it should not be crossed. Some people may try to justify their actions under the guise of freedom of speech, but this border is not invisible. If someone is unable to understand this difference, it may indicate a lack of education or knowledge.

It should always be remembered that children should never be used as a political tool in the media; this is a despicable and manipulative practice. Children are children, and their emotions and mental well-being should always be considered. It is morally reprehensible to ignore this fact and use them for political gain. It is a dirty and unethical tactic.

UNICEF provides comprehensive guidelines on how journalists should cover children and related issues. Suppose a child is at the center of a political event, such as participating in a protest or action. In that case, obtaining permission from the child’s parents is essential before taking pictures or conducting an interview. 

In the case of Anna Hakobyan’s daughter, it was impossible to avoid filming or obtaining permission. However, it would have been considerate to show some tact and not focus the cameras on the child for an extended period, showcasing her confused state. Humiliating a child in this manner can have lasting consequences in the future.

Honorary President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan

Such explicit language not only violates ethical standards but also goes against the principles of public morality. It is inappropriate to vocalize such expressions in such a place, especially in a loud voice. The environment there should be maintained calm and peaceful.

I find it unacceptable that criminal charges were filed following the incident. Such matters should be addressed in the realm of public morality, and people must understand the boundaries between political actions and illegal behavior.

I believe there is a need for a public conversation on this topic. However, I also acknowledge that there seems to be very little desire to have such a conversation due to the serious polarization surrounding the issue. One side defends those who carry out the action, while the other condemns them. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a third opinion that would create a healthy debate leading to the truth. Instead, there is only a divisive atmosphere that prevents constructive dialogue.

Before discussing public issues, we must create an atmosphere of healthy dialogue by giving room to different positions and ensuring pluralism, thus overcoming polarization.

To summarize, while everyone has the right to freedom of speech, the right to hold protests, and the right to express political disagreement, it is important to consider the place and format in which these actions occur. Although there may be legal grounds for initiating criminal proceedings, I believe such actions are unacceptable.

We witnessed yet another example of public polarization being reflected in the media. One group exploited the child’s emotions, while the other condemned those who carried out the action. However, the media should not have made the incident a matter of public curiosity, nor should they have contributed to the deepening of the gap between groups. It is unfortunate that the media is as polarized as the society. While media polarization is a consequence of public polarization, they should have exercised restraint, particularly when it comes to a child.

The media has a responsibility to report on events and situations, but they must do so in an objective manner without using emotional language that may harm the child involved. The mental state of the child and potential consequences of the coverage should be taken into account.

The fact that photos of other children were followed by the incident to contrast them with Pashinyan’s daughter should be discussed in a professional environment. Journalists must follow internationally accepted ethical standards.

Tigranuhi Martirosyan

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