On 18 March 2011, the Georgian Public Broadcaster dismissed two of its journalists, Giorgi Tukhareli and Giorgi Gabrichidze, because of offensive comments they made on Facebook against homosexuals and the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church. The journalists wrote the remarks on the wall of a page, I don't love my Patriarch, but even if the comments later disappeared, someone managed to take a screenshot to post on the Internet.Not that this culture has any deep roots in Georgia, as homophobia & religious fanatism is pretty widespread there - see my previous posts re situation in Tbilisi & elsewhere or the latest from Eurasia.Net - but this is an excellent precedent to start with.
According to reports, Gabrichidze and Tukhareli resigned themselves and Vakho Sanaia, the anchor of a program they worked on, personally met them. He said that it would be impossible for him to work with them again in the future. “Their comments are incompatible with our values and work style,” Vakho Sanaia told Media.ge,” Journalists quit their jobs themselves, and that's what I wished.” Sanaia also said that he would not have worked with them from the beginning had he known that they were homophobes.
“I'm shocked, I could not believe until I saw it with my own eyes. Both Gabrichidze and Tukhareli were some of the best journalists and they have proven that many times by risking their lives to cover recent events in Egypt. Despite all this, program has its image, which has been jeopardized. We condemn this kind of action from a journalist even if they write it on their Facebook wall,” Rusudan Vashakidze, the Producer of the program, told onlinenews.ge.
According to Netgazeti.ge, Vashakidze talked to Gabrichidze over the phone and later denied accusations claiming that his profile had been hacked while those responsible for the program they worked on said that Facebook is a public space and journalists had to understand that everything they wrote would negatively affect them. Gabrichidze and Tukhareli violated the Georgian Public Broadcaster's code of ethics and therefore had to quit.
I never heard of an example by the Yerevan Press Club or similar groups to voice against homophobic instances in Armenian media. Perhaps, our human rights and LGBT related groups should be more active too, in monitoring and formally complaining about each such incident. That said... I remember how one prominent head of media rights group, when approached re condemning hate speeches in local media... the only thing he was interested in and curious about was... whether we would be publishing names of high profile gays in Armenia. Truly, to laugh and to cry.
Not only we are lacking similar precedents in Armenian media, but even some prominent international organisations (example - British Council) or Diaspora linked think tanks (example - Civilitas) continue their shameful policy of supporting media, groups or individuals that promote hate, intolerance and homophobia. This typically follows by lame excuses and patronising ‘clarifications’.
What sort of messages, say, British Council Armenia conveys, in behaving the way they do? The one of hypocrisy. They promote homophobes, then in response to the outrage by activists, to ‘save the face’, they organise trainings. Next day... they get engaged in yet another promotion of homophobes on a pretty prominent level (screenshot below).
At least locals are more honest. They do not disguise their activities under the cover of equality, diversity and tolerance.
It’s very convenient to say: “We are not there yet. You should be more patient. It will take time to see the changes.” True, *change* will not come at once, in one day. But how are we going to see any changes at all if we do not act and do not act now?
Luckily, there are activists in Armenia who act, and we have (albeit very few) media outlets that are homophobia-free (example - Epress.am).
The other day I was watching this excellent BBC drama Christopher and His Kind about famous British novelist Christopher Isherwood, his time in Berlin against the backdrop of rise to the power of the Nazis. Brilliant cast. Brilliant storyline and production. Highly recommend it. There was this very simple and powerful line there in relation to the rise of the Nazi.... “When you get used to it, that’s the danger. You get used to it. You get used to anything.” Says it all.