2019 – Year of the Armenian Media

Message of
His Holiness Aram I
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia
[Condensed]

To:
The Prelates,
The Clergy,
National Representative Assemblies, Executive Councils, and the
Faithful People of the
Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia

With deep spiritual thanks we want to reaffirm that our decision to dedicate each year, by way of a special pontifical message to an event or concept, was received by our people with wide echoes of approval. Now, with this assurance we proclaim 2019

THE YEAR OF THE ARMENIAN PRESS

On this occasion I consider it necessary to first take a look generally on the press and specifically on the beginning history of the Armenian press and on a number of basic concepts and viewpoints.

What is the Press?

The press, in its general definition, includes printing, publications, printing equipment, and information network. The word press in the last few centuries refers to any news organ including daily, weekly, monthly, or occasional publications. In the last few decades the press has taken on a wider meaning—it includes anything that is intended for dissemination. Alongside the printed press we also have radio, television, and the Internet. Our message here for the most part refers to the printed press.

The environment of information is a huge world, especially within the realm of the electronic media, that every day takes great strides and makes unexpected advancements. The information industry, in spite of attempts of some governments to establish boundaries and controls, has become one of the most powerful forces of the world, even creating revolution, spreading hatred, over-throwing governments, distorting incidents, defaming individuals, or the opposite. The evidence is eloquent. The signs indicate that the current situation can continue with even greater force, turning the information realm more dominant.

Birth of the Armenian Press

The first Armenian newspaper, “Aztarak” was printed in Madras, India by Rev. Fr. Shmavonian from October 14, 1794 to1796.

The Armenian press reached Constantinople in 1832. Within the Ottoman Empire, 42 cities had Armenian newspapers. Eventually the number of Armenian newspapers reached 650. In Western Armenia Vasporagan and Daron, and in Eastern Armenia Yerevan, Sourp Etchmiadzin, and Shoushin became the important centers of the Armenian press. The Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, and the Armenian Protestant Church, as well as the Mekhitarist Fathers published various periodicals and books, as well as their official monthly publication.

Today the printed press is a presence on the main page of life in Armenia, as well as in Artsakh and the Diaspora. Alongside the printed press, radio, television, and the Internet have their distinct roles, often with more effective reporting and skillfulness.

A cursory glance given to the Armenian press’s origin and decline brings a series of specific observations that are necessary to be put in the spotlight.

a) Along with their church, school, and culture, Armenians have given special importance to the press and produced various types of publications. The Armenian press has played a pivotal role in the organization of communities, preservation of memory, and in strengthening national identity.

b) The Armenian press has become a true mirror in our people’s national and community life, giving generous coverage in its pages to all information, descriptions, events, and images. It has also become the transmitter of news from community to community creating inter-communal relationships and building a lively, and often the only, bridge.

c) The Armenian press has caused revival and examination for religious/intellectual values, national concerns, religious/benevolent concerns, matters that trouble the Armenian community, past and current events and occurrences, and even a public stage for discussions.

d) By way of the Armenian press, Armenians have become well informed about the external world, contrary to the reality that especially within the borders of the Ottoman and Czarist empires, as well as in some countries in the Middle East, the Armenian press, as well as the local press, have been under strict censorship.

e) By publishing novels, the Armenian press has introduced its subscribers to Armenian writers and even to works of foreign writers. It has also provided opportunities for Armenian writers by publishing their early works in its pages, thus becoming a school for new generations.

f) For the fragmented Armenian, deprived of Armenian soil and environment, the Armenian press became the forge for Armenian reconstruction, protected our Armenian language by spreading and protecting our religious, cultural, benevolent, and national traditions and values, as well as transmitting from generation to generation our supreme national ideology and dreams.

g) Finally, alongside its many varied roles, it is necessary to say that the Armenian press, with its widespread reporting and transmission of factual reporting, remains a trustworthy primary source for the community’s life, organization, and investigations or studies connected to events or people.

In current days the Armenian press faces serious concerns and challenges. The print press faces growing apathy on an international level. Even the Armenian print press has pointed to serious difficulties. Truly, the reduction of the number of pages in print, the condensing of its content and decline of quality, dailies that become weekly, the lessening of subscribers, the closing of some presses, and the diminishing lack of qualified editors and journalists are all troubling signs.

Alongside all of this, the financial difficulty has truly created a serious struggle for the Armenian press. If for others the press has been a source of income and a profitable undertaking, historically this has never been true for the Armenian press and is not true today. In order to rebuild the mission of the press it is necessary to make it financially self-sufficient. This means the need for educated and experienced editors and journalists, quality content, more pages, increase of readership, and expansion of the press’s mission of Armenian nation-building.

Therefore, by declaring the current year the Year of the Armenian Press, along with these reminders and the urgency of making the press self-sufficient, we want to bring the following to the attention of our noble people.

On this occasion we remember in our prayers all of the past editors, journalists, and in general all of the cultivators of the Armenian press, who with their strong faith and dedication kept alive the Armenian press’s mission even under most tenuous circumstances. Great respect to them!

We express our pontifical blessing and great appreciation to all servants of the Armenian press, who in spite of many and various types of difficulties faithfully cling to their vocation. Great honor to them!

By proclaiming the current year “Year of the Armenian Press” we convey the following message.

To our Prelates, the National Representative Assemblies, our sister organizations, and the Armenian press. Bring into the spotlight the importance of the press in the life of our people through celebrations, seminars, conventions, lectures, exhibits, and publications.

To the leaders of the Armenian Republic and the Diaspora. Stand in firm support of the Armenian press, emphasizing its many-faceted role.

To our patrons and benevolent faithful. Besides your support given directly to the Armenian press, consider establishing separate funds and endowments to support the Armenian press’s modernization and to generally help the press re-organize.

Organize seminars for editors and journalists, specifically in the Diaspora. The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia is prepared to sponsor events together with the leadership of the Armenian press.

To all our People. Stay away from the press offered on the Internet, and extend your strong support to the print press by subscribing and becoming a participant in its contents.

Our wish is that the Armenian press will continue its mission with renewal and dedication.

With fatherly blessings and love,

Prayerfully,

ARAM I
Catholicos Great House of Cilicia

January 1, 2019
Antelias, Lebanon

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