On February 2, the Media Center hosted a discussion on ‘Right to Freedom of Expression: What are the Boundaries?’ Lately, the social networks and mass media outlets have addressed their criticism at poet Husik Ara for his poem about Armenia.

In the meantime, social network users also leveled criticism and accusations at Narine Chukhuryan, young journalist from Ijevan for writing an essay about Ijevan. The Media Center held a discussion to consider the freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression from this point.

At the beginning of the discussion, Stage Director Mr. Ruben Babayan, Manager of the Puppet Theater after Hovhannes Tumanyan, said that the very simple truths must be merely voiced from time to time; such truths have been actual for over a century, but we must remind about them from time to time.

When speaking about the freedom of speech of artists and boundaries of such freedom, Mr. Babayan mentions as follows: "Any censorship is a totalitarian system phenomenon. Everyone, except for officials, and especially artists, including poets, express their own opinions and feelings within the boundaries of their talent. Each of us has our own boundaries that we impose on ourselves based on our own moral and esthetic norms." 

According to the speaker, sincerity is the key feature of poetry. As for Husik Ara’s poem about Armenia, Mr. Babayan said:

"I can’t say I’m delighted in terms of the poetry. My personal approach to life and art is always to find some light and some way out. In fact, I'm not so supportive of “blackening”. I don’t believe poetry should put things bluntly and I don’t think poetry has such an objective; anyway, poetic diction is to be observed.”  

Then, Mr. R. Babayan provided as an example Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov's negative poem about Russia ‘Farewell, Unwashed Russia!’ [Russian: ‘Прощай, немытая Россия’] and noted that he considered it patriotic poetry.

"We must not judge any artist or poet by the laws accepted by the public, otherwise we will raise a group of people called poets or artists who will keep shouting “Long lives our bright present! Long lives our wonderful homeland!" all day long but in fact, will have a very sad picture in their souls,” Mr. Babayan said.

With reference to the issue, the other speaker at the discussion Mr. Levon Barseghyan, Chairman of the Board of ‘Asparez’ Journalists' Club, said:

"It seems to me that we are all from the Soviet Union concentration camp. That thinking of standing in a camp line still persists; regretfully, it still continues and unfortunately, as I’ve noticed lately, it passed to new generations as well."

When talking about journalist Narine Chukhuryan's article, L. Barseghyan noted, "Whenever that conditional, relative, or stagnant tranquility is shattered anywhere, whenever someone dares to willingly or unwillingly disturb it, they start taking alarm. In this case, a "sacred" principle was violated once again: how can a young girl from Ijevan dare to write that there are destroyed monuments in her home town?"

When talking about the other prohibitions in our reality and particularly the ban on ‘Eclipse’ [‘Khavarum’] exhibition and presentation of Mikheil Saakashvili's book ‘Awakening of Forces’, Mr. Ruben Babayan mentioned that all the bans are a sign of weakness:

"Furthermore, bans are a sign of weakness not only of a single person but rather of the whole country and system because if you close someone's mouth, you’re weak and afraid of free speech."

Mr. Levon Basseghyan added to Mr. Babayan's opinion that in such countries official's thinking is a serious risk. "For this reason, most of them do not feel like thinking; they think that to fulfill their minimal core duties, it’s better to keep their doors locked and reject such suggestions at the very root. If you’re director of a museum, coordinate the visits of the people coming to see Tumanyan's museum. Why on earth do you initiate the ‘Eclipse’ exhibition? Or, what does Charents Museum have to do with presentation of Saakashvili's book? It’s clear that next time the museum’s director won’t make a mistake or if they initiate something, they will do it as a private person rather than as a museum director, and outside the museum."

Mr. Levon Barseghyan also noted: "When you come across such failures, you understand that we have not left the Soviet Union far behind. This is already leading us to something like dictatorship. It’s such a pity in the past 22-30 years we had a regress instead of substantial progress.”

Then the speaker provided as an example the fact that the National Museum of Armenian History encoded the list of the museum items and the Ministry of Culture defended that position. "After this all, they can ban both exhibitions, and presentations,” Mr. Barseghyan said.

Mr. Ruben Babayan, provided the example of Norway noting that deprivation of liberty is the greatest punishment there. "The greatest advantage of a person as an individual is their liberty and if you limit such liberty, you give them the harshest punishment."

Mr. Derenik Malkhasyan, Editor/Coordinator at the Media Center Project

To contact the author, feel free to write to the e-mail below: [email protected]  



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