AND IN OTHER NEWS: War, Hope, and Creativity

Over the past month, a very public story has made waves in the Swedish press regarding journalistic ethics and how close they get to their subjects. While much of it has transpired in Swedish, the thread linked above is an English summary of what’s been happening. Sweden has strict rules about paid junkets, and in joining a journalist’s union one must agree to not accepting paid trips. Paid trips and other forms of “caviar diplomacy”, however, is something Azerbaijan is quite infamous for, and this particular investigation grew out of an invitation extended to independent journalist Rasmus Canbäck, which was quickly rescinded when he began asking questions. The scandal continued to grow and even reached the Chairman of the Publicist Club in Southern Sweden Agneta Nordin, who had to resign from her position when it was discovered she too had accepted Azerbaijan’s offer. A reminder of what Armenia is up against when it comes to getting a fair shake in the press. Those journalists who accepted paid trips have been banned by the Swedish public media services from reporting on Azerbaijan.

In an indirectly related story, Armenia was elected for the first time as a member of the UNESCO Executive Board for the period 2021-2025, which is particularly relevant as it is the organization which oversees cultural heritage and has been called upon to investigate endangered and destroyed Armenian sites. Also elected however? Azerbaijan, which was also a member in the period 2005-2009. UNESCO has a controversial history when it comes to Armenia, as shortly after Azerbaijan’s election in 2005 the destruction of the historic Jugha Cemetery was exposed, yet the organization failed to act or even condemn it. Perhaps it was a coincidence that First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyev was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador the year before, a position she still holds. In addition, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova (2009-2017) had a particularly close relationship with Azerbaijan’s ruling family. Her husband Kalin Mitrev was exposed as a recipient of over $468,000 from the infamous “Azerbaijani Laundromat”. Armenia’s tenure on the executive board will no doubt be an interesting one.

Armenians everywhere had a moment of serious deja vu this month when according to reports Azerbaijani forces moved into Armenian territory in Syunik. Social media once again played a role, not just in the information war but in attempts at demoralization, as harrowing videos of new Armenian POWs being abused were widely shared from the front lines. It is believed a total of 32 soldiers were taken prisoner during the November 16 fighting.

Just like last year, the names and faces of the dead also came across our social media feeds. The small country that it is, it is not rare for someone to find a personal connection to those affected. As this tweet reflected, “War doesn’t leave anything untouched”.

Despite the destruction and attempts at demoralization, social media also brings us images of hope.

Another case of repurposing, the Kapan train station will be a new TUMO Center for the Creative Technologies. It’s been a big month for TUMO news, as they also announced a new branch will be opening in Ukraine while Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the one in Berlin.

Speaking of creativity, this question from Alexis Ohanian brought quite a few innovative artists to our attention:

One which got our attention in particular was digital artist Artin Ghokasiyan’s HOPPERS series, which are being auctioned as NFTs. Some replied with their surprise that “Shakkablood” was Armenian.

Speaking of creative Armenians, Ohanian also posted a flashback to his visit three years ago to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Armenia! exhibition, which explored 14 centuries worth of Armenian art and culture with its curator Dr. Helen Evans.