Recently, along with several other media executives, I have been invited to an off-the-record meeting with the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Kristina Kvien.
The ambassador, a very pleasant lady, wanted to know our opinion about the situation of freedom of speech and human rights in Armenia. The majority of us voiced certain concerns, which I hope the ambassador will take into consideration.
I wanted to ask Mrs. Kvien a question, but I could not do that due to the lack of time. What I wanted to ask is the following:
“How is it that in the times of the previous leaders of Armenia, any major or minor violation of human rights or freedom of speech immediately followed condemning statements from the U.S. Embassy (as well as the European Union Delegation), while in recent years we do not hear such statements at all? We do not see them even when the acting prime minister appears at the pre-election campaign gatherings with a hammer and explicit manifestations of hate speech.”
A few days ago in the center of Yerevan, Alen Simonyan, the speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, spat in the face of a citizen who called him a “traitor”. This person had no chance to defend himself, because his hands were tightly held by Simonyan’s bodyguards. Simonyan proudly confirmed what happened.
Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the European Union Commission reacted in any way to this ugly act of the head of the legislative body of Armenia, believed to be a parliamentary democracy.
Perhaps, here it is appropriate to quote an excerpt from the comment of the first president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan on the incident:
“There has never been a leader of a more or less democratic state in the world who was not labeled a traitor by his political opponents. It may seem surprising if, for example, I recall that at one time even such prominent U.S. presidents such as Roosevelt were declared traitors by their political opponents for ceding Eastern European countries to the Soviet Union, Truman, for not preventing the communistization of China, and Clinton for weakening his country’s military power due to courtship with Russia.”
At the meeting with the U.S. ambassador, I expressed my deep concern about the polarization in our political life, society and media. The ambassador agreed that polarization is indeed a problem. But by keeping silent even in such ghastly cases, the U.S. Embassy only contributes to the deepening of that polarization, the final stop of which will be a situation where everyone in Armenia will hate everyone.
Ara Tadevosyan is the Director of Mediamax.