Scholars to Research Mass Killing of Armenians by Shan Karniyarikyan

Scholars to Research Mass Killing of Armenians by Shan Karniyarikyan
on Jul 7, 2008
Institute Of Turkish Studies
Board Members Resign to Protest Chair's Ousting, By Susan Kinzie, WP, July 5, 2008

The issue that has roiled U.S.-Turkish relations in recent months -- how to characterize the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 -- has set off a dispute over politics and academic freedom at an institute housed at Georgetown University.

Several board members of the Institute of Turkish Studies have resigned this summer, protesting the ouster of a board chairman who wrote that scholars should research, rather than avoid, what he characterized as an Armenian genocide.

Within weeks of writing about the matter in late 2006, Binghamton University professor Donald Quataert resigned from the board of governors, saying the Turkish ambassador to the United States told him he had angered some political leaders in Ankara and that they had threatened to revoke the institute's funding.

After a prominent association of Middle Eastern scholars learned about it, they wrote a letter in May to the institute, the Turkish prime minister and other leaders asking that Quataert be reinstated and money for the institute be put in an irrevocable trust to avoid political influence.

The ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Nabi Sensoy, denied that he had any role in Quataert's resignation. In a written statement, he said that claims that he urged Quataert to leave are unfounded and misleading.

The dispute shows the tensions between money and scholarship, and the impact language can have on historical understanding.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I. Armenians and Turks bitterly disagree over whether it was a campaign of genocide, or a civil war in which many Turks were also killed.

In the fall, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) championed a bill that would characterize the events of 1915 to 1917 as genocide, the Bush administration fought it and several former defense secretaries warned that Turkish leaders would limit U.S. access to a military base needed for the war in Iraq.

The Turkish studies institute, founded in 1983, is independent from Georgetown University, but Executive Director David Cuthell teaches a course there in exchange for space on campus.

Julie Green Bataille, a university spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail, "we will review this matter consistent with the importance of academic freedom and the fact that the institute is independently funded and governed."

The institute's funding, a $3 million grant, is entirely from Turkey.

A few years ago, Quataert said, members of the board checked on what they thought was an irrevocable blind trust "and to our surprise it turned out to be a gift that could be revoked by the Turkish government."

Quataert, a professor of history, said the institute has funded good scholarship without political influence. The selection of which studies to support is done by a committee of academics on the associate board, he said, and approved by the board, which includes business and political leaders. Never once, he said, did he think a grant application was judged on anything other than its academic merits.

He also noted that during his time there, no one applied for grants that would have been controversial in Turkey. Asked if any of the research characterized the events as genocide, Cuthell said, "My gut is no. It's that third rail."

Roger Smith, professor emeritus of government at the College of William and Mary, questioned whether the nonprofit institute deserves its tax-exempt status if there is political influence -- and whether it is an undeclared lobbying arm for the Turkish government.

Cuthell said none of the institute's critics ever bothered to check the truth of Quataert's account with the institute: It does not lobby, Cuthell said, and "the allegations of academic freedom simply don't hold up."

The controversy began quietly in late 2006 with a review of historian Donald Bloxham's book, "The Great Game of Genocide." Quataert wrote that the slaughter of Armenians has been the elephant in the room of Ottoman studies. Despite his belief that the term "genocide" had become a distraction, he said the events met the United Nations definition of the word.

He sent a letter of resignation to members of the institute in December 2006, and one board member resigned.

But in the fall, around the same time that Congress was debating the Armenian question, Quataert was asked to speak at a conference about what had happened at the institute. He told members of the Middle Eastern Studies Association that the ambassador told him he must issue a retraction of his book review or step down -- or put funding for the institute in jeopardy.

His colleagues were shocked, said Laurie Brand, director of the school of international relations at the University of Southern California.

Ambassador Sensoy, who is honorary chairman of the institute's board, said in a statement this week, "Neither the Turkish Government nor I have ever placed any pressure upon the ITS, for such interference would have violated the principle of the academic freedom, which we uphold the most. The Turkish Government and I will be the first to defend ITS from any such pressure."

Since the May 27 letter from the scholars association was sent, several associate and full members of the board have left. Marcie Patton, Resat Kasaba and Kemal Silay resigned; Fatma Muge Gocek said she would resign, and Birol Yesilada said his primary reason for stepping down at this time is his health, but that he is concerned about the conflicting accounts of what had happened. "It's a very difficult line that scholars walk," Patton said, "especially post-9/11, especially because of the Iraq war."

-finally a sense of moral obligation

-you might be trying to ignore this topic, but it is still here. looks like some of your scholars didn't get paid enough cash.

To: Shan
Shan, we are not ignoring anything. You are the one who is not answering everything we say in other posts, including concerns for democracy in Armenia.

But you attack and we defend, right??? Just like what happened in the First World War.

How about making a statement that democracy in Armenia is unfortunately in a very bad condition and the diaspora should also be worrying about that? That would garner you *some* credibility, and hey, you don't have to be a "denialist" to make such a valid statement.

In Armenia, people take to the streets after elections and kill each other, Shant. They prefer an illegal life in our "hostile" country to their own. That's similar to what happens in certain African countries. In Turkey, we have our own theaters of democracy but at least like all other "democratic" countries of the world, we just happen to make a mockery of our judicial system, electoral system as well as the media. This is no different than what I see in the U.S. or various other European countries.

So personally I don't compare Turkey to Armenia, because I don't believe these two countries belong to the same "league" so the comparison will be unfair. I compare Turkish democracy to that of the U.S. and Europe and I would ideally apply even higher standards than what exists even in those countries.

So in this story, they are finally saying they won't interfere and that genocide should be studied. Probably some dudes were unnecessarily worried about the fact that some scholar used the word "genocide" and reacted the way they did earlier. Armenians fund many chairs in universities as well. They also have their own well funded organization of "International Genocide Scholars" where people are very clearly told that if they don't support the Armenian genocide thesis, they are NOT welcome. So what?

To paraphrase a rare "sentence" that actually belongs to you because in general you do copy and paste: We have also provided many points which amount to a lot more "elephants" in the room than your Armenian genocide cause. You might be trying to ignore these elephants, but they are still here.

To: Shan
Shant, you're like an empty vessel that once in a while someone comes along and pours some water into. Once that water is poured in, you jump up and down and expect people to exclaim how delightful it is that someone was able to fill up all that empty space.

You've certainly convinced me that you're not capable of any original thought and that you are a model sponge for the AYF's indoctrination of hatred and racism. Such a good little soldier you are, receiving all they dish out without question.

You copy and paste something someone else wrote without comment and expect people to get all excited about what you've done. While you may find it an intellectual challenge, your posts are boring and predictable. That's probably why no one responds, because they aren't interesting or worth responding to. Besides, all your responses are the same insult repeated over and over again, which always back you into a corner due to your unbridled hypocrisy and lack of conscience in that regard.

So why should we bother responding to your posts? It's like listening to a one note bugle ... BORING.

- Hey, I find it entertaining. Then you respond and it's even funnier !
- You shouldn't encourage me, that's me holding back ...

-"Freedom" of the Press in Armenia, By Liana Sayadyan

Every year since 2002 the international human rights organization Freedom House has placed Armenia in the category of countries where the media is not free. In its report for 2006 Freedom House said: “Although there is a good amount of media diversity and pluralism, some major broadcast media maintain a pro-government bias, and there is no independent public broadcaster. Most newspapers are privately owned but are dependent on support from business conglomerates or political interests.”

Reporters Without Borders, in its global survey on the situation in 2006, put Armenia in 101st place out of 168 countries in all. That represents a backward move since 2003-04, when the country was ranked in 90th place.

The problems with freedom of the press in Armenia stem from three main factors:-

Legal restrictions, violence and failures of the rule of law
Economic dependency
A low level of professionalism and professional ethics

Case Study 1) Legal restrictions, violence and failures of the rule of law
Armenia’s laws on libel and defamation (Articles 135 and 136 of the Criminal Code) create a difficult legal environment for journalists, and lead in practice to widespread self-censorship. During the past 16 years of national independence these laws have actually been applied only once, in 1999, when Nikol Pashinyan, the Editor-in-chief of Oragir newspaper was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and the sentence was not carried out thanks to international pressure. However the laws seriously inhibit the press from investigating government abuses, especially corruption. The current laws also plainly contradict the Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, issued on 12 February 2004 by the Council of Europe, of which Armenia is a member.

The adoption of a new Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting in 2000 failed to provide a fair and transparent framework for regulating the activities of broadcasting companies. Instead it enabled the authorities to close down critical television stations by denying them licences to remain on air. The decision-making process was distorted by political interference.

The members of the National Committee for Television and Radio were appointed arbitrarily by the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, himself. And in 2002 the Committee refused to extend the licences of two independent TV stations, A1+ and Noyan Tapan. Those stations were denied the legal right to appeal; their subsequent applications for broadcasting licences have been turned down; and a complaint brought by A1+ has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But the Armenian government has refused to implement the ruling. Meanwhile the country’s president has gone ahead and signed an amendment to the Television and Radio Law which effectively allows him to keep his appointments to the National Committee in place. The amendment allows for eight Committee members, four appointed directly by the president and four more nominated by parliament. Since the governing party dominates parliament, the president is thus assured of keeping control in his own hands.

In 2006 the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Mikl√≥s Haraszti, during a visit to Armenia, criticized the way in which the licences have been allocated. Mr Haraszti noted that the composition of the Committee was unduly restricted, and full details about the ownership of companies bidding for licencss were not made public as the law requires. In effect, this means that the principle “one licence per company” is often ignored, since the same enterprise can set up several broadcasting subsidiaries and so acquire several licences at the same time. One family in Armenia, the Sargsyans family, now controls three TV channels: Armenia, ArmNews and TV5.

Although the Armenian Constitution establishes formal guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, the government consistently limits media freedom in several ways. Armenian Public Television, which has strong influence over public opinion, is operated as a state enterprise; its supervisors are appointed by the President, and its output consistently reflects the views of the government. In November 2005, during a referendum campaign on the constitution, the main mass media, including Public Television, actively supported the government’s campaign for a “Yes” vote, while the opposition was mostly deprived of opportunities to put its case in the media. The editorial policies of the nation’s private electronic media do not differ much in practice from those of Public Television. The President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and a number of leading business oligarchs allied with the government are shielded from criticism. And in 2004 a new TV channel, Erkir Media, was set up on behalf of the governing Armenian Revolutionary party (Dashnaktutyun) to broadcast its message directly to viewers. The Executive Director of Erkir Media, Gegham Manukyan, is a member of parliament for Dashnaktutyun and a former member of the party’s executive.

These tight restrictions on media freedom are accompanied by numerous cases of violence and threats of various kinds directed at journalists. Thirteen specific cases were recorded between 2006 and 2007, including the following:-

In September 2007 Hovhannes Galajyan, the Editor-in-chief of Iravunk newspaper, suffered significant injuries and was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants who broke into the newspaper’s offices and beat him using metal bars. Mr Galajyan had already been violently assaulted one year earlier, in front of his own house. He stated after the first attack that he believed it was related to coverage in his newspaper which impugned the reputation of the then Defence Minister (and now Prime Minister), Serge Sarkissyan.

Threatening e-mails were sent to Edik Baghdasaryan, the Editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Hetq, demanding the suppression of articles containing allegations concerning the country’s leading oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, who is also a member of parliament.

The editorial offices of The Fourth Estate newspaper were set on fire by unknown arsonists.

The power supply to the printing presses of the regional Syuniats Yerkir newspaper was cut following publication of criticisms of a power supply company.

The car of Souren Baghdasaryan, Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Football+ was twice set on fire.

David Jalavyan, a sports writer on the Haykakan zhamanak newspaper, was injured in a knife attack.

None of these cases of violence towards reporters has been clarified or led to convictions in court. The judicial authorities have shown reluctance in many cases to conduct active investigations, and in the few cases in which individuals have been found guilty of obstructing the work of journalists, only fines or other mild punishments have been meted out.

Case Study 2) Economic dependency
Armenia’s TV channels, all of them in reality controlled from the office of the President, provide the society with systematically biased information, which exclude all expressions of dissent. The written press is also hampered in what it can write by its heavy dependence on major business or political sponsors who exercise tight control over many newspapers by controlling the flow of funds from advertising.

Armenia has about 70 newspapers in all, representing various different interests and strands of opinion, but none can truly be said to provide objective information independently to its readers. According to Freedom House, they all depend on “private sponsors, often representing political and economic interests, which affect their objectivity”. The circulation of the printed newspapers is too small to have any significant impact on public opinion or to develop an independent financial base. Newspaper distribution is another factor limiting diversity. More than half of all Armenian newspapers are distributed by a single state-owned enterprise, Haymamul. In 2001 the government declared its intention to privatize Haymamul, but in fact it has sold off only franchises for news stands, allowing Haymamul to keep its effective monopoly on newspaper distribution. This monopoly has allowed the authorities to censor newspapers on some occasions even after they were published, by ensuring that they never physically reached their readers.

Case Study 3) A low level of professional ethics and professionalism
The state of professional ethics in journalism is poor. In general, media workers in both the print and broadcasting media lack any ethical code which can serve as a proper guide to professional standards. Professional conscience is all too often sacrificed to the partisan interests of financial sponsors or media owners. This has fostered a spirit of mutual antagonism and open insults among those in the media who represent rival political or business interests. That in turn is reflected in a low level of probity and integrity in public debate. As a consequence there is little solidarity or sense of community among journalists, and efforts to establish common standards of ethics, or to form a voluntary professional ethics council have been unsuccessful.

Conclusion and Future Action: In order to establish genuine media freedom Armenia needs better professional standards among journalists, measures to prevent politicians from gaining direct control of the media, and international help to assist Armenian journalists develop the strong institutions and practices required to make media freedom a reality.

To: Shan
No thoughts Shan?

-Shan shan't answer you!
-Ohh, that's good...hehehe!


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