On September 13-15 in Istanbul an international conference “The Role of Media in Karabagh Conflict and Advancement of Regional Security and Cooperation” was held. The event was attended by journalists and experts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, Georgia, Russia and Turkey. The conference was organized by Yerevan Press Club and “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan under the joint project “Ensuring Public Awareness on Regional Developments” (the project is implemented by the two NGOs with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation). The Istanbul event was assisted by the Global Political Trends Center. The conference was opened with the welcome addresses of Michael Meier, Head of Istanbul Office of Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Arif Aliev, Chairman of “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan, and Boris Navasardian, President of Yerevan Press Club.
The report of free lance journalist Tobias Asmuth (Germany) regarded the Karabagh conflict in the context of regional security and its reflection in the German speaking media. The speech of Ipek Yezdani, Editor of TRT Turk TV company, touched upon the perspectives of Turkish politicians, media and expert community towards conflicts in South Caucasus. The reports of political scientist Rasim Musabekov (Azerbaijan) and YPC Weekly Newsletter Editor Elina Poghosbekian (Armenia) dealt with the Azerbaijani and Armenian media coverage of mutual relations in the context of recent regional developments.
The two documentaries on conflict issues were widely discussed by the conference participants. The films were produced by Internews Armenia and Internews Azerbaijan NGOs.
The panel discussion, involving Elena Imedashvili, Project Director of “News of Georgia”, and Grigory Shvedov, Chief Editor of “Caucasian Knot” online publication, regarded the Karabagh conflict and Armenian-Azerbaijani relations in the mirror of neighboring countries.
In the end of the conference, YPC President Boris Navasardian and “Yeni Nesil” Chairman Arif Aliev summed up the project results and presented its future plans.
P.S. In the early morning of September 13, upon the arrival of the eleven Armenian journalists taking part in the conference, along with the journalists visiting Turkey upon the invitation of Hrant Dink Foundation, an extremely unpleasant incident occurred at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. About twenty passengers who arrived by Yerevan-Istanbul flight were put through a special examination by the immigration services. In particular, proofs were required as to the sufficiency of funds for staying in Turkey and going back. Notably, this check-up was applied only to passengers from Yerevan.
The passengers examined included also four out of eight Armenian journalists invited by Hrant Dink Foundation. Despite the fact that the Foundation representative that accompanied this group gave the necessary explanations as to the purpose of journalists’ visit to Turkey, the immigration services continued to demand that journalists show the cash they had on them and additional documents. Having learned about this, the YPC President Boris Navasardian tried to explain that the two groups arrived in Turkey to take part in professional events and the related expenses were fully covered by the organizers. Yet the immigration officers refused to consider the group as a whole, examining people individually. They also insisted that Boris Navasardian pass the border. When he refused to do so, saying he will only go through after his colleagues subjected to the check-up, the officers threatened him with a deportation. After the threat had not worked and the representative of Global Political Trends Center Can Yirik and Hrant Dink’s daughter Delal interfered, the journalists were allowed to pass the border. The whole story lasted for two hours.
On the same day at the opening of the conference Boris Navasardian made a statement. Having described the incident to the conference participants, the YPC President said in particular: “We have always considered Turkey to be quite a civilized country, open for regional and international events of various levels, and this conference is another confirmation of such perception. We understand that the immigration services have a right to ask questions and to have check-ups, it is their work. But today’s incident in Istanbul airport goes far beyond regular procedures. Representatives of Turkish immigration services subjected the Armenian journalists and other passengers from Yerevan – and exclusively them – to a very humiliating procedure, not finding it necessary to give any justifications. We insist on getting official explanations, otherwise we would have to reconsider our attitude towards holding events in Turkey. We cannot invite people to take part in our events, when there is a risk to harm their dignity.”