By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A pro-government newspaper, which believes that mixed marriages threaten Armenians’ national identity and press freedom endangers their state, has raised the eyebrows of its powerful patrons who are now considering sweeping changes in its editorial staff.
A senior member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), which controls the weekly “Zhamanak” (Time), distanced himself and the party leadership from its radically nationalist and at times xenophobic rhetoric on Monday. Tigran Torosian, who is also a deputy speaker of the parliament, indicated that the HHK board may soon change the newspaper staff.
“I can’t think of any board member who harbors such extreme views,” Torosian told RFE/RL, adding that some “Zhamanak” commentaries have contradicted his party’s main tenets.
The paper’s editor, Meruzhan Hovannisian, also said that they do not reflect the party line. “This is the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial staff which has nothing to do with neither the program nor the position of the Republican Party,” he said.
The controversial content of “Zhamanak” was first discussed by the HHK board last Tuesday. The Republican leadership decided to hold a separate meeting on the issue later this month.
Strong opposition to the mixed marriages, which are uncommon in monoethnic Armenia, is a major theme of “Zhamanak” articles. One such article about “the purity of Armenian blood,” which appeared recently, was tinged with anti-Semitic remarks.
Torosian said while he believes that “it is right and desirable for Armenians to marry Armenians,” people born as a result of inter-ethnic marriages “must not be rejected by the nation.” He also insisted that despite its nationalist tilt the HHK is committed to liberal democracy, human rights, market-oriented economics and other Western values.
“Zhamanak” has consistently argued against Armenia’s development into a Western-type democracy where individual rights take precedence over presumed state interests. Strangely enough, it has also spoken out against freedom of speech, writing recently that “the shortest way to destroy any state is to abolish censorship.”
On another occasion, commenting on root causes of last year’s terror attacks on the United States, the paper declared that “terrorism will disappear only with the disappearance of democracy.”