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Turkish, Armenian journalists meet to find ‘common ground’
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 01 May 2011 Sun 11:05 am

Türk, Ermeni gazeteciler "Ortak Zemin" arayışı için biraraya geldi.

Turkish, Armenian journalists meet to find ‘common ground’

01 May 2011, Sunday / SERVET YANATMA, WASHINGTON, D.C.

Participants in the Turkish-Armenian journalism internship program seeking to foster stronger relations between the two nations together during their stay in the US.


A Turkish and an Armenian journalist are together in the US on April 24, the day Armenians mark as the anniversary of Armenians being killed at the hand of Ottomans in 1915. They sit at the same table for an Easter meal, telling about the cuisines of their culture to their American host family.

 It immediately emerges that their food cultures have much in common. Many dishes even have the same name. Of course, “serious issues” also come to the agenda. However, both of them try to make comments that would not “disturb” the other. Young people of the two countries are now able to discuss many issues without getting hung up on the “genocide” debate.

Although Turkey and Armenia have yet to normalize bilateral relations, things are moving much faster in the civil society wing of the normalization efforts. Six Turkish and six Armenian journalism interns came together in the US last week to attend a joint internship program, in a move to strengthen communication between one another, as journalists have a role in shaping their country’s today and tomorrow. In this way, they will obtain direct knowledge about their neighbors and better understand each other.

The program had many parts. The journalists first attended courses on American media for a week in Washington. They also had courses on issues such as journalism, media ethics, conflict resolution and mediation. The most important part of the program, which is still under way, is the second phase. The journalists were divided into six groups, each consisting of a Turkish and an Armenian journalist. They visited a number of states for three weeks. They follow news stories, attend editorial meetings and examine the news editing process at American newspapers. This is of course not a one-sided learning process. They are also exchanging views about their profession with their American colleagues.

The internship program is not just limited to the office. Perhaps the most colorful part of the program is that the interns are staying in the homes of the staff of local journalists. They are observing their colleagues’ working methods and lifestyles. This is also a good opportunity for the three parties -- American, Turkish and Armenian journalists -- to get to know one another’s cultures.

The conversations at the dinner tables are mostly centered on Turkish and Armenian dishes. Americans are asking about them and Turkish and Armenian journalists are answering. It is impossible to skip 1915 incidents during these conversations. However, the debate aims to understand each other rather than engaging in an argument. Armenian journalists are aware of the change in Turkey in recent years in approaching this issue and they are pleased with that.

Conferences in Yerevan, Ankara

The dates that coincide with the internship program are also noteworthy. The six teams, each compromising a Turkish and an Armenian journalist, came together on April 24, the anniversary of the deaths of Anatolian Armenians during World War I, which is marked as “Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.” Some of the Armenian journalists attended commemoration ceremonies of the Armenian diaspora. Some of them went to church with Americans since April 24 also coincided with Easter, one of the major holidays in Christianity.

 One major leg of the program is the joint “border projects” the six groups will take part in. Some of them will examine the possible economic outcomes of reopening the Turkish-Armenian border. The border between Turkey and Armenia has been shut for 14 years due to deep political disagreements between the two neighboring countries. Some of them will travel to border villages to question the meaning of the border for the villagers and some of them will research Armenian architects in the Ottoman era.

 The program is not limited to just those things. In June, six Armenian and Turkish journalists and the editors of the dailies they worked as interns for will get together at a conference in Ankara. The joint border projects will be presented at this conference and the stories encountered during the projects will be shared with the public. Soon after this conference, the same team will head to Yerevan and hold the same conference there.

The program is being carried out by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). The project is funded by US Department of State as well as the US embassies in Ankara and Yerevan. The US administration believes that the normalization between the two countries can only be ensured through improvement of dialogue between the two countries. Journalists are the first group which comes to mind when the issue is dialogue.

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