Thursday 19 August 2010

‘Champion of equality’ British Council Armenia sponsors homophobic radio station in Yerevan

British Council Armenia
We're throwing a party to launch The Selector, a radio programme featuring the latest music from the UK! Radio Van will be broadcasting the show throughout the year and you have the chance to win great prizes by tuning in to Radio Van and coming to our party at Lake Sevan. See you there! 
...and on the event's page: 
The British Council Armenia and Radio Van are happy to announce the launch of The Selector radio programme in Armenia. We are having a big party to mark this occasion and you are invited! [...]
Besides dancing and fun, you’ve also got the chance to win great prizes in a lottery! A return ticket to London for one person and an unforgettable and all-inclusive weekend for two at Arthurs Resort in Aghveran are up for grabs. A big thanks to BMI and Arthurs Resort for providing the prizes!
Besides the great music that The Selector offers, there is another great reason to tune in to Radio Van’s broadcast of the show throughout the year. You can win another return ticket to London to attend The Selector annual party, a prize once again provided by BMI.

Reading these announcements on Facebook, I could not believe my eyes. I was outraged and utterly disappointed with the decision by British Council Armenia to sponsor and support homophobic radio station in Yerevan.

Earlier this year, this blog exposed institutional homophobia and hatred within the Radio Van, with the head of radio station ‘fully agreeing’ with neo-nazi views expressed on their corporate blog. This ‘inspired’ me for launching Armenia: Homophobia Hall of Shame. Back then, I did express my firm belief that promoting hate should not be profitable in Armenia. Apparently, British Council in Armenia does not share such views.

I also pointed out at sponsorship by British Embassy in Armenia for a project within the radio station aimed at... promoting European integration (!!).

British Ambassador in Armenia was quick to intervene and reassured that the embassy was unaware of the homophobic material, the Euro project was agreed long before and now completed, and they “do not have any other current projects with Radio Van”. Thanks to that intervention, main homophobic materials were removed from the Radio Van’s corporate blog. However, that removal was simply a technical act. Head of radio station Shushanik made it clear on several occasions that her views did not change, that she was forced to remove materials, and the radio station never publicly acknowledged or distanced from their homophobic past, which never really became ‘past’ but continued to be ‘present’.

‘Marking’ International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), 17 May 2010, head of Radio Van Shushanik effectively and literally compared gays to... ‘sh*t’, cleverly using a seemingly not gay related citation and effectively equaling fight against homophobia with that against ‘sh*tophobia’. (link)

And here we are, our ‘champion of equality’ British Council Armenia happily sponsoring projects with such radio station and making joint invitations to a fancy beach party with “great prizes”. ...If this is “the freedom of expression and the diversity of views” British Council Armenia “respects”, then no comments, indeed.

In reply to my outrage and disappointment with their sponsorship of homophobic organisation, British Council Armenia came out with a relatively long response which contained quite a few but somehow irrelevant references to “equality” and “diversity” and did not address in any way my concerns re homophobia.

“The British Council values Equality and Diversity and aims to establish cooperation with individuals and organisations representing the diversity of Armenia and the world. We also respect the freedom of expression and the diversity of views, at the same time we always do our best to promote our values of Equality and Diversity among our partners and beneficiaries and to ensure that no discrimination occurs in the framework of our partnership initiatives and all the project stakeholders are treated with respect. In regard to this particular project, we would like to stress that this partnership has its history since 2003 when The Selector was being broadcast by RadioVan. Moreover this is a true non-commercial partnership thanks to which it has been possible to revive  the Selector in Armenia and bring our audiences the best of British music as we believe that Art is one of the most powerful media for establishing intercultural dialogue and promoting positive social change. We do hope that you will enjoy this initiative and that it will help us strengthen the links between Armenia and the UK."

No, I won’t and I cannot enjoy any initiative which promotes or sponsors homophobic groups in Armenia or elsewhere. This is not the way to “strengthen the links between Armenia and the UK”.

All these references to “Equality” and “Diversity” are totally devalued if, on one hand, the British Council sponsors ‘silent’ posters against discrimination, but in practice loudly sponsors homophobic radio station with fancy launch parties. This sponsorship by British Council clearly contradicts declared British Foreign Policy directives in promoting equality, human rights, including LGBT rights, worldwide. Moreover, not only British Council in Armenia is not ashamed of these connections, it proudly announces involvement of at least one other British institution, BMI, in sponsoring of this project with “great prizes”. I assume - or I want to believe - that BMI is not aware of homophobic nature of the organisation they are sponsoring.



artmika said...

No Rock And Roll Fun: British Council holds party with dodgy radio station


Global Voices Online: Armenia: Homophobic radio station rewarded?

artmika said...

Open letter by Radio Van (RU)

artmika said...

Re: ‘Open Letter’ by Radio Van

artmika said...

In its weekly roundup of news, eurOut reflected my post too

"Armenia / UK

The British Council - Armenia were contacted already earlier this year on the topic of sponsoring the openly homophobic radio station Radio Van. Back then, it seemed as if their tagline the Council is committed to Equal Opportunity and Diversity was important to them as they had the station remove lots of homophobic references from their webpage. Broadcasting was not monitored though and presenters and the head of the station were free to continue their discriminatory rants. And the British Council – Armenia only recently proudly announced a new cooperation with said radio station (via Unzipped: Gay Armenia)."

artmika said...

Via A look at LGBT rights in Armenia by euOut

[...] Apparently, it also has a homophobic radio station that is sponsored by the British Council Armenia. The blogger I linked to not only has a neat blog, but also has a list of Armenian LGBT blogs, links to information on LGBT rights in the South Caucasus region and a knowledge of current Armenian events you probably only have when you speak the language.

I recommend clicking that link, because I could of course repeat exactly what he says, but all I know is the British Council is an educational and cultural NGO which is responsible for things like English classes abroad and IELTS language tests. And although I don’t think any cultural and educational NGO should have links with any homophobic corporation, be it a radio station or a commercial brand or whatever, I believe there have been some issues with this particular radio station in the past which makes it especially strange that the British Council is still agreeing to sponsor its activities. [...]

artmika said...

Homophobe and into gay porn? Lucky you. You will be rewarded by British Council Armenia