By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Yerevan daily “Or” (Day) faced on Friday a wave of condemnations after its scandalous publication of sexually explicit photographs featuring the editor of a rival newspaper.
The ostensibly independent paper founded earlier this year provoked a furor on Thursday when it put on its front page several shots from an infamous video that shows Aram Abrahamian of the pro-opposition “Aravot” having sex with an unknown woman. In an editorial, “Or” presented the fuzzy pictures as proof of Abrahamian’s hypocrisy and corruption.
The unprecedented move was almost unanimously condemned as a blatant breach of universally accepted norms of journalistic conduct and citizens’ right to privacy. The National Press Club, a local media watchdog, announced that it is expelling the “Or” editor Gayane Mukoyan from its ranks for the “violation of journalistic ethics.”
Two other media associations, the Yerevan Press Club and the Armenian Union of Journalists, called for a nationwide boycott of “Or” by journalists and the general public. “We urge our colleagues to avoid any cooperation or contact with that newspaper, ignoring its very existence in a dignified manner,” they said in a joint statement which was also signed by five newspapers.
“We declare that all those journalists who will discredit our profession with such publications will face the same treatment,” the statement warned.
The publication of the pictures was condemned even by those pro-presidential newspapers that are often hostile to “Aravot” and other publications highly critical of the current authorities. “Hayots Ashkhar” branded it a “meanness that has no justification,” while “Azg,” where Mukoyan had previously worked, deplored “the day of disgrace of our media.”
Meanwhile, Abrahamian, who is currently in Greece, shrugged off the embarrassing pictures and said he will not sue “Or” over them. “I am a free person and am therefore not accountable to anyone for where and with whom I spend my spare time,” he wrote in an “Aravot” editorial on Friday.
In a separate front-page comment, the “Aravot” staff effectively laid the blame on tobacco magnate Hrant Vartanian, who is rumored to be a major financial sponsor of “Or.” A figure close to President Robert Kocharian, Vartanian has often faced negative coverage of his business activities by “Aravot” and slammed the paper on several occasions in the past.
The scandalous video of Abrahamian’s explicit sex scenes was secretly shot by an unknown cameraman two years and, while being circulated in the political and journalistic circles, was not disseminated or openly discussed by the Armenian media until the “Or” report. Many observers therefore wonder why it should have been publicized now.
Abrahamian believes that the pictures were illegally filmed by the National Security Ministry, the former Soviet-era secret police.