By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian issued on Friday decrees giving official titles and top state awards to a dozen journalists from TV stations, news agencies and newspapers controlled by or loyal to his administration.
A statement by the presidential press service said five of them will become the first citizens of independent Armenia to bear the title of “honored journalist.” Among them is Kocharian’s personal photographer and the editors of the government-controlled “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” newspaper and the private daily “Hayots Ashkhar.” The latter has staunchly backed the Armenian leader and blasted his political opponents throughout his eight-year-rule.
The official titles are a throwback to the Communist era when many members of the Soviet Union’s pro-establishment intellectual and cultural elite were declared “honored” or “people’s” artists, composers, journalists or other professionals in recognition of their achievements and support for the ruling regime. The practice was introduced by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s and abolished in Armenia by the first post-Communist government in Yerevan that took over in 1990. It was again legalized after Kocharian came to power in 1998.
The Armenian Union of Journalists, also set up in Soviet times, nominated several local reporters for the titles last year. According to its chairwoman Astghik Gevorgian, none of them was awarded by Kocharian.
Kocharian also decided to give prestigious Movses Khorenatsi medals to five other loyal media representatives. Those include the director of the Mediamax news agency, a commentator for Armenian state television, the news editor of another pro-presidential TV channel as well as correspondents for two Russian-language newspapers supporting Armenia’s leadership.
One of those papers, “Golos Armenii,” also received a written “note of appreciation” from Kocharian for what the presidential press office described as its “long-running efficient work.”