YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


ARMENIAN AND AZERBAIJANI PRESS EXCHANGE FIRE, GEORGIA ENJOYS MORE CORRECT ATTITUDE

The brochure “What Can a Word Do?”, with the results of the research of Armenian,
Azerbaijani and Georgian press, will soon be published. The research was conducted
in January-September 2005 by Yerevan Press Club, “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union
of Azerbaijan and “BS Press” Association of Georgia. The study and its publication
were implemented by three NGOs under a joint regional project “Societies and
Media of South Caucasus Countries: Search for Mutually Acceptable Solutions
to Regional Problems” supported by Eurasia Foundation’s Program of Cooperation
in South Caucasus.

To define the level and nature of the media coverage in each country of the
events in the two neighboring countries, cross press-reviews were conducted
based on common methodology (the Armenian expert reviewed Azerbaijani and Georgian
newspapers, the Azerbaijani expert – Armenian and Georgian, and the Georgian
expert – Azerbaijani and Armenian ones). The subject of monitoring were online
versions of the print media: “Azg”, “Aravot”, “Golos Armenii” (Armenia); “Zerkalo”,
“Echo”, “525ci Gazet” (Azerbaijan); “Akhali Taoba”, “24 Sahati”,
“Svobodnaya Gruziya” (Georgia).

The brochure presents the summarized data of 9 months, which may serve as an
“encyclopedia of stereotypes and mistakes”, published in the press and making
it one of the factors for increased tension and xenophobia in the South Caucasus.
Based on the data received, recommendations were also worked out on media coverage
of regional issues.

The pieces, devoted to the events in the neighboring countries of the South
Caucasus, were analyzed on several aspects: the level of adequacy and accuracy
of coverage, presence of cliches, stereotypes, quotations unacceptable for the
neighboring audience and leading to the formation of enemy image. The sources
of inaccurate information and unacceptable text units were also revealed: do
the journalists themselves instigate tension or refer to the public statements
(documents)?

Below are presented the conclusions based on the findings of the nine months’
research.

ADEQUACY OF COVERAGE. The coverage by the monitored newspapers
of the situation in the neighboring countries is generally characterized by
one common shortcoming: delayed and inadequate reporting of the main events.
In other words, the journalists overlook numerous facts, which could contribute
to a better understanding by their public of the realities and problems of the
regional neighbors. Frequently, the press reported important events in the other
two countries with a delay, which could not be justified by their periodicity.

Overall, the Azerbaijani newspapers showed a relatively
bigger interest (herein the emphasis and connotation of coverage are not considered)
to the events in the neighboring countries, than their Georgian
and Armenian colleagues.

ACCURACY OF COVERAGE. Herein, both inaccurate information
on the neighbors and questionable data were fixed. At the same time, the source
of information was differentiated – journalists/authors or other persons.

The largest number of untrue facts was revealed in the three studied Azerbaijani
newspapers:
486 – by Armenian and 28 by Georgian experts. (It
should be noted that the figures presented in the research cannot claim complete
statistical validity for a number of reasons, however, overall they reflect
general tendencies.) In more than half cases, the authors were journalists themselves.
Though inaccurate information was distributed relatively evenly among the Azerbaijani
newspapers, the least number of journalistic mistakes was in “525ci Gazet”,
and “Zerkalo” had the most.

In the Armenian newspapers 102 untrue facts were
recorded by Azerbaijani expert and 31 – by Georgian. In the majority of cases,
the authors were journalists. The obvious leader among the studied Armenian
papers, as regards the amount of inaccurate information, was “Golos Armenii”.

Least frequently, the “mistakes” were found in the Georgian publications:
14 untrue facts were recorded by Armenian and 2 by Azerbaijani experts (the
journalists were authors in 5 cases). This small number of “slips” in the studied
Georgian press is largely conditioned by few publications about the neighbors
and a lower level of confrontation towards Armenia and Azerbaijan, than between
the society and press of the latter countries.

As for the questionable facts, in the Azerbaijani newspapers
they made 181 (151 were revealed by Armenian and 30 by Georgian experts), in
the Armenian newspapers – 95 (60 – by Georgian and
35 by Azerbaijani), in the Georgian ones – 6 (5 –
Armenian and 1 – Azerbaijani).

UNACCEPTABLE CLICHES AND STEREOTYPES. “Cliche” was defined
as frequently used words or phrases with a negative connotation (e.g. “Azeris”
instead of “Azerbaijanis”). “Stereotype” was defined as ideas, concepts, characteristics,
etc. repeated with some frequency, yet expressed in different words, with the
same negative context or direct negative content (e.g. “the Armenians are enemies”).

The most frequently used unacceptable cliche recorded by the Armenian expert
in the Azerbaijani newspapers was “Armenian separatists”/”Karabagh
separatists”/”separatist regime”/”epicenter of separatism” (227 times, most
frequently in “Echo”). The second most frequently used cliche was “occupied
territories”/”occupation of Karabagh” referring to Mountainous Karabagh and
not the adjacent territories (191 times, most frequently in “525ci Gazet”).
In terms of its meaning, it is closely linked to the phrases like “Armenia’s
aggression”/“Armenian aggressors”/“Azerbaijan as a victim of aggression” (147
times, most frequently in “Zerkalo”). Their unacceptability for the Armenian
audience is conditioned by confusion and interchange of the terms “separatism”
and “occupation”, justified by international law, with unjustified “extremism”,
“terrorism” in the first case and “aggression”, “annexation” in the second.
At the same time, in the majority of cases the mentioned cliches were not related
to the publication. Thus Karabagh farmers, having started a sowing campaign,
as reported in the press, might also be called “separatists”. The third place
in frequency of use was with the words “genocide of Armenians”/ “Armenian genocide”
in inverted commas and the cliche “alleged/fictitious genocide of Armenians”
(160 times), which gave the publications on the events of 1915 in the Ottoman
Empire an obviously insulting meaning for the Armenian audience.

The Azerbaijani expert recorded the following cliches as the most frequent
in the Armenian newspapers: “Azerbaijani vandals/barbarians/Azerbaijani
mob” and “Azeris” (5 times each, most frequently in “Golos Armenii”).
An unacceptable cliche is also the changed use of Azerbaijani toponyms: Kashatagh
instead of Lachin, Karvachar instead of Kelbajar. At the same time, Armenian
media do not have a common policy on toponyms: herein, the official and changed
names are used interchangeably, whereas the Azerbaijani articles display a permanent
uniformity (e.g. Khankendi is used instead of Stepanakert).

The Georgian expert did not record cliches unacceptable for the audience either
in the Armenian or Azerbaijani newspapers.

In the course of research, the Azerbaijani expert did not outline unacceptable
cliches in the Georgian newspapers, the Armenian expert
recorded phrases provoking a negative reaction in 7 pieces: “occupied territories/lands”/“occupation
of Mountainous Karabagh” and “Armenian separatists/separatists from Javakheti/epicenter
of separatism”.

The most frequent stereotype revealed by the Armenian expert in the
Azerbaijani newspapers
was “Mountainous Karabagh is indisputably
Azerbaijan’s territory” (55 times). Related to it, is another stereotype “Armenian
population of MK are citizens of Azerbaijan” (21). The second most frequently
used stereotype was “Armenia unilaterally violates international norms” (in
the relations with Azerbaijan) and third – “the possibility of breaking the
cease-fire regime and resumption of military actions by Azerbaijan are justified”
(48 and 41 times respectively).

The Azerbaijani expert fixed “genocide of Armenians in Azerbaijan” as the most
frequently used stereotype in the Armenian press (26
times). The second unacceptable stereotype for the Azerbaijani audience was
“Azerbaijan and Turkey are Armenia’s irreconcilable enemies” (15), third – “Mountainous
Karabagh is an independent state” (13).

In the Azerbaijani papers, the Georgian expert identified
the stereotype “the Georgian authorities conduct a policy of oppression of ethnic
minorities” (3 times). In the Armenian newspapers, the expert outlined
the stereotype “in Georgia they dislike the Armenians/Armenian culture/Armenian
religion” (16 times).

The Azerbaijani and Armenian experts did not record a more or less frequent
use of stereotypes unacceptable for their audience in the Georgian
newspapers
.

UNACCEPTABLE, UNDESIRABLE PIECES AND QUOTATIONS. These were
entire pieces or quotations based on inaccurate or questionable information,
cliches, stereotypes or certain phrases insulting, denigrating and humiliating
national dignity.

Azerbaijani newspapers were a leader on this indicator
among all the ones studied: the Armenian expert fixed 253 fully unacceptable
pieces and 125 – undesirable, and also 42 unacceptable quotations. The authors
of the majority of quotations were political, public figures or other persons.
One more unacceptable publication in the Azerbaijani press was identified by
the Georgian expert.

In the Armenian newspapers, the Azerbaijani expert
pointed out to 35 completely unacceptable articles, 7 – undesirable and 23 unacceptable
quotations. The majority of the latter were expressed by the journalists. 10
unacceptable, 7 undesirable pieces and one unacceptable quotation were outlined
by the Georgian expert.

In the studied Georgian newspapers, the Armenian
expert recorded 2 completely unacceptable articles and 4 undesirable ones, and
also 4 unacceptable quotations. The Azerbaijani expert did not identify similar
pieces or quotations in the Georgian newspapers.

THUS, the main negative manifestations in the coverage of the issues related
to the regional neighbors are contained in the Azerbaijani and Armenian media.
Both of them show aggressiveness and animosity towards each other, whereas their
attitude to Georgia is more correct. The Georgian press “responds” with same
relative correctness to the neighbors, showing at the same time little interest
in the latter. Falling behind the Azerbaijani peers in terms of quantity of
negative information, the majority of Armenian newspapers do not lag behind
in their quality, i.e. the anti-Azerbaijani charge of their pieces. However,
if in Azerbaijan practically all leading media are equally involved in the “information
war”, in Armenia there is an obvious “vanguard” and “rear-guard”.

See the full version of the research (in the Russian and English languages)
on YPC website: www.ypc.am in “Studies” section.