Monday, May 28, 2012

Eurovision 2012: In between propaganda and... propaganda

The Eurovision final was held a couple of days ago, and since I had promised to write more on the subject, I tried to put together some materials and personal reflections on what happened. There were two major issues of note about this year's Eurovision, held in Azerbaijan: the attempted, and yet unsuccessful, "public diplomacy" by the regime, and Armenia's "boycott".

Official Eurovision 2012 logo. From:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Azerbaijan's "Caviar Diplomacy"

I'm sure you have seen and heard "diplomacy" used in many different forms and configurations. Well, now you can add "caviar" to the list, as well. This one refers specifically to Azerbaijan, however.

With Eurovision 2012 being held in Baku, the Azeri regime thought they could seize the moment and turn it into a great public diplomacy opportunity. They built a massive Crystal Hall, cosmetically brought their house into order, and are now trying to maintain it as they host their guests from all over Europe (and beyond). This is backfiring now, however, as instead of updates on who made it to the Final and who didn't, the West (where many couldn't care less about Eurovision itself) is reading media reports on political and human rights abuses in the country. The government's desperate attempt to cover it all up isn't helping much either.

Crystal Hall in Baku. Image from Belgovision.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Diversity March in Yerevan Hijacked by Ultranationalists

In December 2002, the UN General Assembly had declared May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary, the UN encouraged local communities to take action and commemorate the day by supporting diversity.

As I had noted a couple of days ago, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia) and the Women's Resource Center of Armenia NGOs had declared May 21-26 a "Diversity Week" in Armenia. They had planned a series of events, the first of which was going to be a Diversity March downtown Yerevan. Given the recent events surrounding LGBT issues in Yerevan and all the societal agitation, frustration, and distortion, the march promised to be eventful. And it was.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Listening Post on China's "Soft Power"

This first part of this week's episode focused on China: the situation with media freedom in the country and, what the Listening Post called, its "Soft Power" efforts abroad.

China's international broadcaster, CCTV International (or CNTV), has been in the spotlight in the West, and especially in the US, for a couple of years now, just like "Chinese soft power" in general. And, despite all the Chinese efforts, they seem to be having great difficulties in getting to the general American public. The channel is very new, however, launched in the end of 2009, and it still remains to be seen what its impact and/or real popularity can be.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17: IDAHO in Armenia

No, not the U.S. state...

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

An Armenian NGO - Public Information and Need of Knowledge [PINK Armenia] - dealing with public awareness and sex education campaigns, LGBT rights among them, was to mark the day with a wider set of events. They had declared May 2012 LGBT month in Armenia, which includes conferences, training sessions for journalists and NGOs, and a "Diversity Week" in the end.

This is a much-needed discussion in Armenia, a country which, according to a recent report by ILGA-Europe, "does not meet the basic requirements of human rights standards" in terms of LGBT issues. Furthermore, in a 2011 survey, PINK Armenia found that 72.1% of the population in Armenia's largest three cities have a negative attitude towards LGBT persons; 70.9% said they are "strange people"; 18.6% still think it's a "disease"; the vast majority (55.3%) said they would stop any relationship with a friend, relative or colleague if they found out they were LGBT; and 71.5% suggested that the state "should fight against them".

Clearly, there is [just a bit of more] room for education and awareness...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Europe Day in Yerevan, Armenia

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the Passport DC and Europe Day "embassy open house" events held (now annually) in D.C. Unfortunately, I had to miss them this year as I am currently back in Armenia for a relatively short visit. I was very excited to find out, however, that Europe Day was going to be commemorated in Yerevan, as well. So I decided to spend the afternoon there, with a camera, documenting Europe's cultural diplomacy in an "Eastern Partner" country.

[Click on photos for larger view]

Although the venue chosen for the events was the newest, yet (arguably) the ugliest street in downtown Yerevan - Northern Avenue - and despite the gloomy weather, it was very nice to see some bright colors all around.