Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Public TV in Armenia and pop singers in PR disaster over Eurovision

Let me start from the very beginning of this story. A story that quickly turned into farce. Perhaps, one of the most spectacular yet tragic PR disasters of Armenia’s Public TV & co.

Group of initially unnamed Armenian pop singers issued a ‘statement’ on 23 February 2012, in which they urged country’s public broadcaster to boycott the Eurovision song contest in Baku. As a more immediate trigger for such decision, the ‘statement’ cited the news that “20-year-old solder Albert Adibekyan was shot by an Azerbaijani sniper on the Line of Contact between Azerbaijan and the disputed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“Theatre of absurdist Eurovision related propaganda continues.” - this was my immediate reaction that was subsequently quoted by AFP.

It was instantly obvious that this "group of singer/songwriters" was used as a propaganda tool and as a pretense so that Armenia’s Public TV will have an excuse to announce their “no”. The wording of the ‘statement’ left little to imagination as to the real authors behind such ‘creation’. State propaganda machine.

Entertainment website bravo.am, immediately after the release of the 'statement', tried approaching those "well known and famous" (yet unnamed!) singers, only to discover that many of them had no idea about the “written statement”, and contrary to what was indicated in some outlets ('all previous Armenian Eurovision singers signed it in') at least Andre said that in fact he would like to perform in Baku. Basically, Armenian propaganda people prepared and distributed the 'statement' first, then started asking singers to sign in. Tragic and laughable at the same time.

In a further evidence that this spectacle was coordinated by Public TV, one of the signatories - singer Artur Ispiryan - admitted in an interview with Yerkir Media that it was them (Public TV) who called him asking whether he thinks Armenia should participate in Baku or not. He said he was not aware of the accompanying text.

Following eventual 'disclosure' of signatories, I was glad to notice that Sirusho (the most successful Armenian Eurovision entrant so far) and Dorians (the band I like and favor for this year’s Eurovision) were not among them. Ironically, none of the signatories were even considered for this year’s Eurovision.

Many on social networks, in particular Facebook, and media, condemned the move as unacceptable exploitation of soldier’s death for personal and political propaganda purposes, especially by those singers who tarnished their reputation during 2008 post-election bloodshed by keeping silent or siding with the authorities.
(AM) "Այո, անբարոյականություն է, երբ որ դու առիթ ես որոնում` «Եվրատեսիլ» չգնալդ հիմնավորելու համար եւ հանկարծ օգտագործում ես զինվորի մահը: Անբարոյական է էն «աստղը», որ զոհված զինվորի անունը չարաշահում է իր մոտակա անելիքները պլանավորելու համար, իսկ մարտի 1-ի զոհերի մասին ասում է՝ թող էնտեղ չլինեին, չսպանվեին:" (source)
And here is just one of the reasons why I respect Dorians:
Addressing the reason cited by the artists for refusing to perform in Baku (Adibekyan’s death), Dorians’ producer [Vahagn Gevorgyan] said:
“The saddest part is that the soldier’s death yesterday is tied up with Eurovision and more uproar was evoked than the deaths of other soldiers. Not now, but long ago we should’ve reflected on the cause of [these] deaths in the army, who is to blame that soldiers are being killed. Of course, they say, the Azeris, but I don’t think that we don’t have problems within our own army,” he said.
The situation evolved into spectacular yet tragic PR disaster when first ArmeniaNow, then other news outlets (with the confirmation by Ministry of Defense) admitted that the soldier whose death was exploited for propaganda purposes and as an excuse to withdraw from the Eurovision was in fact killed by his fellow Armenian serviceman [read: Mis-Information: Army says Azeri sniper killed soldier, but new information contradicts and confirmation by MoD in News.am and RFE/RL]
Conscript Albert Adibekyan, who died on February 23 in a military base near Chinar village, Tavush province, according to new information, was killed not by an Azeri sniper, as it was officially reported, but rather by an Armenian serviceman. [...]
Helsinki Association expert Ruben Martirosyan told ArmeniaNow that yesterday at the meeting with Yura Badalyan, head of the Central Apparatus at the Ministry of Defense Investigative Service, Badalyan told him that they “had managed to find out that the killer was not an Azeri sniper but was an Armenian [serviceman].”
“So there is a new way of calling the murders committed in border military bases - to hide the case, attributing the blame to a [Azeri] sniper, to gain dividends in front of the international community. Parents will be comforted believing that their child has died as a hero. But this will simply destroy our army,” Martirosyan says. 

During 2012, eight soldier deaths have been registered. Only two were from enemy fire.
Where are your voices now? Where is the statement condemning death of the Armenian soldier killed by his fellow serviceman? Where is the outrage of our super-patriotic singers? I can’t hear you.
P.S. There are quite a few genuine reasons that Armenia’s Public TV may have considered to withdraw from the competition, without resorting to above. Among them, I would like to highlight the underrated fact of virtual impossibility of Armenian fans (apart from being part of delegation or media) to travel to Azerbaijan capital Baku for Eurovision. I genuinely believe that Eurovision should not be held in a country where there are obstacles for participating fans. Because Eurovision is not only about songs, singers and country delegations. It's equally or more so about fans too. I will not even go into the issue of widespread and systematic human rights abuses in Azerbaijan (see the very latest example highlighted by the Human Rights Watch). And as if Armenian Public TV / pop stars‘ ridiculousness was not enough, now Azerbaijan’s Eurovision winner Nigar Camal resorted to propaganda language stirring anti-Armenian hysteria by exploiting the anniversary of tragic events during Karabakh war on Twitter. This is not the language that supposedly welcoming host should have used.

“Official” Eurovision-related decision by Armenia’s Public TV [participate - Yes/No; if Yes - the entry] will be announced by 18 March 2012.