On April 9, media and IT security expert Samvel Martirosyan conducted a lecture at the American University of Armenia. He summed up what was mainly going on in the media sphere during the last ten days due to the situation on the front line between Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan.
Martirosyan addressed the question what was going on and why both sides implemented exact same steps in the sphere of media and journalism. He noted that this analyses would be useful for the future, as we constantly keep seeing propaganda in the media. He also mentioned that he’s not going to talk about the good things as they are obvious, but he will concentrate mainly on the problems of our side.
“Propaganda works where people do not understand anything.” Martirosyan said.
Continuing on talking about how media war is being implemented and what is its purpose, he mentioned that in case of the Genocide question between Armenia and Turkey both sides use history as the main tool of defense. They edited maps and changed names of inhabitants which formed exact perceptions among the societies of both sides. In case of Karabakh, however, there’s nothing to do with history. We live in a century where the main battlefield is media, official governmental institutions and our hearts and minds. As he said ”Hearts and minds of the residents of the country are the easiest place to seed panic and that’s the main purpose of media propaganda.”
We live in a world where the methods of propaganda became more aggressive as now there is internet. An example of this is a chance to find a picture of your dead son online. “Showing bodies of the soldiers is the most powerful tool in media war as it’s an appeal to the emotions of millions of people.” Martirosyan said.
“Fear makes people lose their power of will.”
However, Martirosyan said that the Ministry of the Defense of Armenia did the same with the photos of Azerbaijani dead soldiers.. Another thing that Armenian MoD did is eliminating from Facebook the photos that Azerbaijani side spread.
Martirosyan mentioned an important issue of our side, that is we don’t have military journalists. This kind of journalists abroad are having special classes of preparations specially for battlefield work. And that’s why on the first days of the recent events there were not many photos and videos from the battlefield and people hearing different horrible information could only imagine what was actually going on. He mentioned that of course, our side had benefits as in Azerbaijan broadcasting from the military area is prohibited. That’s why if one sees an Azerbaijani source broadcasting from the battlefield it carries some sort of theatrical manner.
Being able to interact with outside news agencies is another important thing Martirosyan mentioned. He highlighted that we don’t have exact journalists concentrated on the issues in Karabakh and that right now radio“Azatutyun” is the only news agency that has its office in NKR. This is the reason why when most of the journalist finally arrived in Stepanakert to film the fights it was already too late. None of the reporters had any special military clothing, and it’s strange as Nagorna-Karabakh de facto is a country in a state of war. Another issue was that there wasn’t a press center and it made it hard for the media to work from NKR. It was eventually established, but again, it was too late.
What about Cyber war? A war where the main purpose is to damage the most important websites of the country you are fighting. For example, the pages of Defense Ministry and Defense Army, Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Health as the main information about dead and wounded soldiers goes from there. Also the Central Bank webpage could play a huge role as by changing numbers in the rates the opposition may spread panic.
For Martirosyan it’s still a question why Azerbaijani cyber army stayed passive and didn’t manage to cause enough harm to the Armenian side. Meanwhile Armenians caused huge problems for them. Martirosyan spoke of in what way Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Armenia should have acted in his opinion. As he said, “Armenian side should have spoken more and the Azerbaijani side should have talked less.”
At the end of his lecture, Martirosyan mentioned that Karabakh should try to do a better job at its PR as mainly the most part of outside news agencies look for information from Armenia as they don’t know much about Karabakh. He said that it was important that by the end NKR officials gained the attention of the outside media by giving interviews.
He asked the audience whether they know any of Karabakh press agencies and it turned out that only 10% of the whole auditorium had an answer. After he asked how many of those 10% knew about those agencies before the recent events, even less people raised their hands. Lastly, he asked the most important question “Does it have to be that way?”
To appeal to the world, the locations shouldn’t be just an area for the audience, it should be a known fact. For example, if we take massacres taking place in Somalia, does it affect our emotions that much? That’s because we don’t have any connection with it, yet. This works for any audience. As long as you don’t know too much about the case, you don’t care about it.
He concluded by saying that Karabakh has many things to be famous for. Only the equipment for making vodka is already an important national treasure.