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      Public TV under public pressure

Public TV under public pressure   7/03/2006


Public TV under public pressure

Armenians in the U.S. had hardly expressed a sigh of relief that finally a documentary featuring the Armenian Genocide would be aired on the Public Broadcasting System, when the anticipated reaction surfaced immediately. The news was that after airing the documentary, a panel discussion would follow to include prominent genocide deniers Justin McCarthy and Omer Turan.

Of course, Turks and their allies in Washington lobby circles would not sit idle and watch Andrew Goldberg's objective portrayal of the Armenian Genocide. They indeed moved, and PBS decided to air a one-hour panel discussion, allowing the deniers to air the official views of the Turkish government.

That, of course, was a challenge for American-Armenians, who, to their credit, acted promptly and vigorously.

As always, respected columnist Harout Sassounian blew the whistle and many organizations and individuals got into the act. Over 15,000 individuals signed petitions requesting the PBS management not to air the follow-up panel discussion, which at best, would have only served to promote the arguments of the criminal party. Also, 3500 e-mails have been sent in support of the petitions. The campaign still continues, and perhaps it will continue up to April 17, when the program is aired.

Thus far, the Armenian reaction has convinced several PBS affiliates to drop the panel discussion segment. Among the 348 PBS affiliates, only a handful has decided to cancel the panel discussion segment.

It is a constant and unrelenting struggle to keep the genocide issue alive in public debates.

It is the duty and the mission of genocide deniers to cast doubts on historical facts to be able to claim that the Armenian Genocide issue is a complicated and complex one, which consequently will lend itself to the need to listen to the "other side" of the story. There is no "other side" to the Armenian Genocide issue, as there is no "other side" for the Holocaust issue.

At best, deniers like Justin McCarthy can confuse the uninformed public and provide a pretext to old-fashioned journalists to seek the "other side" to appear as balanced. One of those victims seems to be the Associated Press, which in its March 1, 2006 Worldstream continues to harp much maligned line of spineless journalism, by stating: "Armenians say that Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians in a planned genocide around the time of world War I, while Turkey denies the claim."

This so-called "impartial" journalism has been discredited a long time ago. It is unethical and immoral trying to strike an equation between the statements of the murderer and the victim by continuing the line of "Armenians say..." when the majority of the genocide scholars have publicly stated the facts about the Armenian Genocide, denying escape routes for lazy and irresponsible journalists to treat lightly the fate of 1.5 million murdered Armenians.

This public furor and debate once again brought forth the analogy of the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust. The question whether PBS would air a similar panel discussion following a documentary on the Holocaust was answered by Jacoba Atlas, the PBS Senior Vice President of Programming who said that the Armenian Genocide is not "entirely analogous" to the Jewish Holocaust, because "Germany has fully accepted responsibility for the Holocaust, paid reparations, made apologies, met the survivors and teaches about it in schools. As you know, this is not the case with the Armenian Genocide. Turkey's official position on this chapter of history is a key part of the controversy that the documentary and the panel discussion seek to examine".

In the first place, there is no controversy about the issue unless one tries to crate one. Second, no criminal has voluntarily confessed his crime. Third, since when does the criminal's repentance substitute for historic truth? History has given its verdict and many civilized nations have acted on it by passing parliament resolutions and adopting respective laws. Under those circumstances and in light of historic truths, Ms. Atlas' statement and untenable position are more than ludicrous.

Armenians need not be disappointed, as this campaign is not a futile one. It has been yielding dividends and it will continue to yield more, if we continue our resistance to distortions of history and denials of justice to the Armenians.

As one affiliate after another drops the panel discussion, our campaign will make headway.

Already there are areas where we have achieved positive results, which should be taken into serious consideration.

1. After many years of waste in brick and mortar, our donors have finally realized that they must put their money where their mouths are. It is believed that the documentary was produced with a budget of $365,000, most of which was underwritten by Armenian donors. Credit is due to these donors who recognize the most vital issues for our community.

In this media-savvy modern world TV, radio and newspapers shape public opinion. When used properly and intelligently, the news media is the most appropriate venue to promote a cause.

2. Although this campaign has already reaped dividends, it will continue doing so by mobilizing our resources and making an impact on public opinion. This is an irreplaceable public exercise that will politicize our communities and allow them to stand up for their causes. Politicization of the community is the name of the game in our nation's capital.

Battle lines are drawn and we have to fight in the media and in academia.

The Turks have the resources and political expediency on their side; however, we do have the truth on our side and the truth will eventually triumph.

Mirror Spectator, march -7/06


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