Why I Chose Not to Report on Armenia and Azerbaijan

On April 2, I woke up to a message from a friend through Facebook asking me if I had heard the news. “The war has restarted in Armenia,” she wrote, and I swear I have never been more awake. Immediately I rushed to Google to find out what was going on. In the long disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis were shooting at each other. I texted my advisor and told her I would cover the story for my “Breaking News” requirement for Billboard. I never turned it in.

There are several reasons I chose not to. Those who know me are aware I am a very proud Armenian. I am named after my great grandmother, Zarouhi Berberian, whose name changed to Celia when she arrived in America to escape the Armenian Genocide in 1914. While all of my friends from back home were filling up my Facebook feed with opinions and comments about the conflict, I stayed out of it.

I am a journalist, and my job as a journalist is to remain objective and to dig for the truth. Well, I’m several thousand miles and two languages away from the truth. While I am Armenian, I cannot speak the language and relying on Google Translate is not always the best option. If we were to get past language barriers, the reports from the ground are biased depending on the country reporting them. I watched as the exact same news stories popped up with the countries switched around. On top of all of this bias, neither country is willing to tell the truth for fear of losing military advantage. I watched as my friend had to shut down her social media and speak small talk over Skype due to the government of Armenia’s restrictions. I felt my heart break as hers shattered. I watched her stare at her phone as if it would jump up and say “The fighting is over, everyone is safe, no one died.”

Her friends are stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, her family is in Armenia, her life is there and I watched her stare helplessly at her cell phone. I knew as I watched her and comforted her as best I could that I could not report this. Not until all the facts are revealed, not until the bias has disappeared from the news, not until I could tell her the truth. My job as a journalist is to report the facts, and the fact is the following: all we can do now is hope the two countries will reconcile.


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