BBG Watch Commentary
Voice of America (VOA) English News website and most of VOA’s language services failed to report on President Obama’s statement on “Armenian Remembrance Day” and on Congressional visit to Armenia, during which members of the delegation laid flowers at the Genocide Memorial in the country’s capital Yerevan. It appears that only VOA Armenian Service and VOA Turkish Service had an online report on President Obama’s statement.
VOA Armenian Service also reported on the visit of the congressional delegation to Yerevan, but not on the laying of flowers at the Genocide Memorial. Next day, Friday, the VOA Armenian Service report on the President Obama’s statement showed only one Tweet and one Facebook “Share” as of 10:30 AM EDT. The VOA Armenian Service report on the congressional delegation’s meeting with Armenia’s president, which did not mention their visit to the Genocide Memorial, showed only one Tweet and three Facebook “Shares” as of 10:30 AM EDT Friday, a day after it was posted.
Among other Voice of America language services, not even the VOA Russian Service reported on President Obama’s statement about the genocide of Armenians. There is a strong push in Russia from the Kremlin to ignore, downplay and distort facts about acts of genocide committed by Stalin and other Soviet communists. VOA reporting on the U.S. commemoration of the mass killing of Armenians could have been a reminder that Soviet crimes are still being ignored by the Putin government. Such a VOA report in Russian would also have relevance to Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Both groups were victims of genocides in former the Soviet Union. Armenia was part of the former Soviet Union. Russia has a substantial Armenian community.
Some Armenian American organizations are disappointed by the White House statement because as in previous years President Obama did not use the term “genocide” to describe the killing of about 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. The White House statement, however, was quite specific on what crimes were committed.
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian said that “President Obama continues to outsource his policy on the Armenian Genocide, effectively granting Turkey a veto over America’s response to this crime against humanity.” Reporting on this story by in English for worldwide audiences and in other languages would have shown how Americans deal with such issues. The Turkish government acknowledges that killings of Armenians took place but objects strongly to describing them as genocide.
Voice of America Armenian Service reported on the controversy, but VOA English News website and most VOA language services completely ignored it.
Voice of America English News completely ignored the visit to Armenia of the congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member.
VOA English News also ignored an earlier visit of the congressional delegation to Ukraine, where they met with Ukrainian government officials and civil society leaders, held discussions with visiting Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to eastern Ukraine, held a press conference, and were interviewed by American TV networks.
In an ultimate twist of irony, many international media are using Russia’s RT video of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Congressmen Royce and Engel laying flowers at the monument to the victims of Armenian Genocide.
Chairman @RepEdRoyce in discussion w #Armenia president Serzh Sargsyan prior to laying wreath at Genocide Memorial pic.twitter.com/GRGnokDovA
— Foreign Affairs Cmte (@HouseForeign) April 24, 2014
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2014
Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day
Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. We recall the horror of what happened ninety-nine years ago, when 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and we grieve for the lives lost and the suffering endured by those men, women, and children. We are joined in solemn commemoration by millions in the United States and across the world. In so doing, we remind ourselves of our shared commitment to ensure that such dark chapters of human history are never again repeated.
I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We continue to learn this lesson in the United States, as we strive to reconcile some of the darkest moments in our own history. We recognize and commend the growing number of courageous Armenians and Turks who have already taken this path, and encourage more to do so, with the backing of their governments, and mine. And we recall with pride the humanitarian efforts undertaken by the American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief, funded by donations from Americans, which saved the lives of countless Armenians and others from vulnerable communities displaced in 1915.
As we honor through remembrance those Armenian lives that were unjustly taken in 1915, we are inspired by the extraordinary courage and great resiliency of the Armenian people in the face of such tremendous adversity and suffering. I applaud the countless contributions that Armenian-Americans have made to American society, culture, and communities. We share a common commitment to supporting the Armenian people as they work to build a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous nation.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere, as we recall the horror of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memory of those lost, and reaffirm our enduring commitment to the people of Armenia and to the principle that such atrocities must always be remembered if we are to prevent them from occurring ever again.