YPC Weekly Newsletter

2001


KARABAGH CONFLICT IN THE MIRROR OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC OPINION OF ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND MOUNTAINOUS KARABAGH

Since February 2001 Yerevan and Baku Press Clubs with the participation of Stepanakert Press Club have been implementing a one-year project titled “Karabagh Conflict in the Mirror of Media and Public Opinion of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh”, supported by the Network Media Program of Open Society Institute (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 3-9, 2001).

Under the project in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh an integrated research was conducted aiming at revealing the public and political attitudes, positions, approaches to the problem of Mountainous Karabagh and possible ways of its resolution. The research was conducted simultaneously (March-September, 2001) and by uniform methodology, envisaging surveys among the population, decision-makers as well as six-month monitoring of the leading media in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh.

The course of the research, preliminary results, reports with the data processed and comparative analysis were discussed at the working meetings of the three parties to the project in Yerevan (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 31 – April 6, 2001), Stepanakert (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 28 – August 3, 2001) and Baku (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 10-16, 2001). As it has already been reported, the research results will be published as a separate brochure in the English and Russian languages. Herein the most interested findings of the surveys and media monitoring in Armenia, Azerbaijan and MK are so far presented.

The surveys among the urban and rural population were conducted by using random sampling method. The sample size is equal to 1,000 people in Armenia, 1,155 (including refugees and displaced persons) in Azerbaijan and 250 in Mountainous Karabagh.

The polling of decision-makers (experts) involved state, public, political figures, who are either directly involved into the process of Karabagh conflict resolution and/or directly influence the attitudes to it in the political backstage and society. 100 decision-makers were polled in Armenia, 64 – in Azerbaijan and 25 – in Mountainous Karabagh.

Media monitoring was held for the sources, the role of which is most noticeable in the information space. In Armenia the following media were monitored: two TV channels, their broadcast area covering the whole country (Public Television of Armenia and private “Prometheus” TV company), and five national newspapers (“Aravot”, “Azg”, “Haikakan Zhamanak”, “Hayots Ashkhar” dailies and the Russian-language “Golos Armenii”). In Azerbaijan the monitoring list is as follows: two TV channels (the state-owned "AzTV-1" and the independent "Space") and five dailies ("Xalq Gazeti", "Yeni Musavat", "Azadlyg" and the Russian-language "Echo" and "Zerkalo"). In Mountainous Karabagh the only local TV channel “Artsakh Television” and two newspapers (an official “Azat Artsakh” and the partisan “Aparazh”) were monitored.

In Armenia the results of the answers to “Who is to blame for the Karabagh conflict?” do not differ much among the population and the decision-makers: in the opinion of 47.2% of public at large and 47% of decision-makers, the cause for the conflict is to be sought in the “external forces”. 45% of public and 49% of decision-makers place the blame on Azerbaijan, 5.6% of public and 5% of experts – on Armenia, 4.6% of public and 6% of experts – on Mountainous Karabagh. Only 3% of the experts found it difficult to answer this question, while the same figure among the public makes 13.3%. According to the monitoring results, the newspapers and TV channels practically did not touch upon the themes of the main cause of the conflict: it is present (on the level of 1.1% – 2.5% of publications and TV reports) mainly in the non-commented reprints from Azerbaijani press where the fault for the conflict is placed on Armenia. It may be for this reason that among the public the share of those whose attitude to the question is uncertain is rather big.

In Azerbaijan 88.5% of the population and 70.3% of decision-makers think that Armenia is the cause of the conflict. 57.5% of the public and 40.6% of decision-makers think that the roots of the conflict lie with “external forces”.  30.8% of the public and 12.5% of experts think it is Mountainous Karabagh, while 3.1% of the public and 12.5% of the experts think the main cause is Azerbaijan. The attitude expressed through the media practically coincides with the opinion of the majority of the population and the decision-makers who place the blame on Armenia (88% of stories). By 11.3% of publications and TV reports, the cause is to be sought in the "external forces", by 0.4% – in Azerbaijan and by 0.2% – in MK.

In Mountainous Karabagh the respondents view Azerbaijan to be the main cause for the conflict – 71.6% of public and 80% of experts. 36% of public and 40% of decision-makers blame the "external forces", 3.2% of public and 8% of experts – Armenia. While 4% of the respondents among the population think Mountainous Karabagh itself is to blame, none of the decision-makers are of the same opinion. The television never mentioned MK to be the cause of the conflict, while for the newspaper publications this indicator made 0.8%. As for the rest, the attitudes expressed through the media coincide with the opinion of the society: in 94% of TV materials and 65.4% newspaper publications the fault for the conflict is placed on Azerbaijan, in 20.5% newspaper publications and 3% of TV stories on the “external forces”. In 13.3% newspaper publications and 3% of TV materials Armenia is mentioned as the main cause for the conflict.

In Armenia the public and decision-makers in their vast majority speak for the peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict – 69.6% and 78% respectively. Military solution is acceptable if the peaceful settlement is impossible for 23.9% of public and 19% of decision-makers. Only 1.4% of public and 2% of decision-makers speak for the military settlement. The media monitoring findings show that up 40-45% materials on Karabagh issue are devoted to the peaceful resolution issue. The attention of the media to the subject of military solution is pre-conditioned by the revival of the issue on behalf of Azerbaijan. Yet, as the monitoring showed, the attitude of the Armenian media to this approach is mostly negative. As to the method of the peaceful resolution itself, the decision-makers, unlike public, prefer the “package” solution – 51% of respondents. The possibility of “stage-by-stage” peaceful solution is accepted by 17% of decision-makers, while 30.2% of respondents among the public prefer “stage-by-stage” alternative and only 16.5% advocate the “package” solution. It is interesting to note that the media were not very active in exploring the themes of “stage-by-stage” or “package” alternatives. This may be the reason why the general public revealed little knowledge of this aspect of the problem, evidenced by the huge proportion of those who found this question difficult to answer (44.4%).

In Azerbaijan more than half of the respondents among the public (54.9%) and the majority of decision-makers (71%) are advocating the military solution to the conflict if it cannot be done in a peaceful way. 13.8% of public and 24% of experts support the purely military solution to the conflict. Practically everyone out of three respondents among the public and only one in every 16 decision-makers think the purely peaceful resolution possible. Both the population and the decision-makers prefer the “stage-by-stage” solution – 52.5% and 72% respectively. 18.5% of public and 13% of experts advocate the “package” alternative. At the same time, 23.9% of public found this question difficult to answer, a fact, which in the opinion of the researchers, is mostly related to the insufficient knowledge of the details for each of the options. The “war and peace” subject, as the media monitoring showed, is a priority in the coverage and the discussion of the Karabagh problem: it is discussed twice as often as the status of MK and is apparently prevailing over the frequency of reviewing the format and the prospects of the negotiations process. The peaceful solution propaganda is dominating in the media (65.9% of materials) as compared with the military solution (28.8%). The subject of "stage-by-stage” or “package” options of peaceful resolution receives much less attention from the Azerbaijani media, similarly to situation in Armenia.

In Mountainous Karabagh the purely peaceful resolution is apparently prevailing over the purely military way: 70.4% of public and 56% of experts prefer peace to war, which is supported only by 0.4% of respondents among the public and 4% of decision-makers. 27.6% of public and 40% of decision-makers accept the possibility of military solution, if the peace process yields no results. The supporters of “package” and “stage-by-stage” solutions were practically equally divided among the population (28.4% and 28% respectively). The rather high proportion (29.6%) of those who found it difficult to answer the question reveals that the public is not quite aware of the essence of the two options. The “package” option is advocated by twice as many decision-makers as “stage-by-stage” alternative (40% and 20% respectively). At the same time, 40% proposed other alternatives for the resolution. In the majority of media materials the emphasis on the peaceful solution can be observed (in 76.4% of the TV stories and 58% of newspaper publications) versus 22.4% TV stories and 39.7% newspaper publications mentioning the military solution. MK media also seldom refer to "stage-by-stage” or “package” options.

In Armenia the most effective format of negotiations in the opinion of public at large and decision-makers is the trilateral negotiations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh (42.1% and 42% respectively), as well as the negotiation process under the OSCE Minsk Group (24.7% of public and 37% of experts). 8.9% of respondents among the public and 3% of decision-makers prefer bilateral negotiations of Armenia-Azerbaijan. The population views the direct negotiations Baku-Stepanakert to have practically no future (3.6% respondent); this format was supported by 6% of decision-makers. The progress and the future of the negotiation process were in the focus of the media attention during all six months of monitoring. The direct negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan received high assessments (44.7% of TV stories, 30.5% of newspaper publications), and the same can be said about the negotiations under OSCE Minsk Group (39.8% – on TV channels, 27.5% – in the newspapers). The subject of direct negotiations between Baku and Stepanakert did not enjoy popularity on TV or in press (0.3% and 0.8% of materials respectively); however, the subject of trilateral negotiations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh was explored (5.3% and 5.1% respectively) with positive attitude towards this option.

In Azerbaijan the majority of respondents among the population speaks for the continuation of the two existing forms of negotiations: Armenia-Azerbaijan (41.6%) and under the OSCE Minsk Group (37.3%). These very negotiation formats were viewed as most productive by the experts, too (30.8% each). Neither the population nor the decision-makers do actually support the direct negotiations of Baku-Stepanakert (1.3% and 3.8% respectively) and the trilateral negotiations Armenia-Azerbaijan-Mountainous Karabagh (1.4% and 3.8% appropriately). The frequency peak of discussion of the future of negotiations process in the media was in April (with regard to the meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Key West). The media, as well as the public at large and decision-makers also prefer the discussion and propaganda of the negotiations process under the Minsk Group (53% of materials) and between Armenia and Azerbaijan  (40.9%). The most unfavorably the trilateral negotiations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh and the possibility of direct negotiations of Baku-Stepanakert are regarded. In total these variants received attention in 3.2% and 0.7% of materials respectively.

In Mountainous Karabagh 70% of the population and 32% of experts support the trilateral negotiations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh. 36% of experts and only 6.8% of public favor the direct negotiations between Baku and Stepanakert. The very low proportion of respondents preferring the negotiations under the Minsk Group (7.6% of public and 12% of experts) is, as the researchers mention, not a sign of distrust to this structure, but an opinion that the two negotiation forms mentioned above would be much more effective. 5.2% of the public and 8% of decision-makers advocate the bilateral negotiations of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Along with the materials about the productiveness or the lack of effectiveness of negotiations under the auspices of the Minsk Group (32.5% – in the newspapers and 29.4% – on TV) and between Armenia and Azerbaijan (25.2% – in the newspapers and 23.3% – on TV) and besides the statements about the necessity of the direct dialog between Baku and Stepanakert (5.9% and 5.6% respectively) the media mentioned the importance of the transfer of the issue from a political sphere into the legal area. The possibility of trilateral negotiations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh was discussed in 13.3% of newspaper publications and 14.6% of TV materials.

In Armenia, with regard to the determination of the status of Mountainous Karabagh the majority of the population (45%) and experts (52%) favors the independence of MK, a smaller part – its unification with Armenia (42.7% and 51% respectively). Various options of MK being a part of Azerbaijan (as an autonomous formation or in other statuses) are not popular either with the experts or the population: from 0.3% to 0.7% of public and from 1% to 3% of experts viewed this positively. The concept of the “common state” is also unpopular with the population (2.2%). 8% of decision-makers view it as interesting. The option of conflict resolution necessitating the territory exchange is preferable for 1.7% of the population and 1% of experts only. Experts also express certain inclination to the theme of “any other option” (16%), which reveal the interest to other compromise solutions to the conflict. The problem of MK status receives little coverage from the Armenian media who are mostly supportive of  “MK as an independent state” option (7.1% – TV materials and 9.9% of newspaper publications). Only in 2.1% of the TV materials and 3.7% of publications was the option of “MK as a part of Armenia” raised. The possibility of MK being a part of Azerbaijan was considered even more seldom (on the level of 0.2% -1.7%). Just like the experts, the media had certain interest towards the “common state” concept and even greater – to “any other option” (14.2% of TV materials and 14% of newspaper publications). The negative attitude of the media is caused mainly by the concepts of territory exchange, covered in 3.8% of TV stories and 7.5% newspaper publications.

In Azerbaijan, more than half of the respondents among the population advocate the option of "MK as a part of Azerbaijan without retaining the autonomy" (55.9%). The second most popular option is "MK as a part of Azerbaijan with retaining the autonomy" (34.6%). "MK as a part of Azerbaijan with high autonomy status" option is, in the opinion of researchers, little known (or unpopular) – 3.5%. The remaining options are mentioned even more occasionally and do not reach 1%. The majority of experts (61.1%) think it most acceptable to have "MK as a part of Azerbaijan with the autonomy retained". 14.8% of the experts surveyed spoke for each of the following options: “MK as a part of Azerbaijan without autonomy” (if the conflict is to be solved by war) and “MK as a part of Azerbaijan with high autonomy status” (if the conflict is to be solved peacefully). No decision-maker supported the possibility for Karabagh to be an independent state. The most frequent subject for discussion in media was the option of “MK as a part of Azerbaijan” with no specifications of status (in 50.8% of materials). Although the alternative of “MK as a part of Azerbaijan with no autonomy retained” was considered in 7.9% of materials, it received a positive evaluation of over 90%. In general the media view the possible status of “MK as an independent state” or “a part of Armenia” (these issues were considered in 12% and 8.9% of materials respectively). The option of “MK as a part of Azerbaijan with a high status of autonomy” was given attention in 6.9% of materials and in 6.3% “any other option” was considered.

In Mountainous Karabagh both the majorities of respondents among the population and the experts see the future of MK as a part of Armenia (67.6% and 52% respectively). The option of “MK as an independent state” is favored by 35.2% of the public and 40% of decision-makers. The concept of the “common state” remains out of the scope of either the population or the decision-makers. The latter ones exclude also the option of “MK as a part of Azerbaijan with high autonomy status”, which among the public received 0.8%. The settlement of the conflict associated with the territory exchange is supported by 2.4% of the public and 4% of experts. The media gave more attention to the discussion of the option of “MK as an independent state” (in 59.2% of TV materials and 45% of newspaper publications) than to the option of "MK as a part of Armenia" (21.7% of TV materials and 13.9% of publications). The subject of “any other option” was discussed, too (11% of TV materials and 13.2% of publications). The concepts of "common state" and "MK as a part of Azerbaijan with high autonomy status" are mentioned at the level of 1.7-% – 3.2% of media materials. Unlike TV, the press paid more attention to the “territory exchange” (11.8% and 2.9% respectively).