To Quote or Not to Quote Azerbaijani or Turkish Media?

27.04.2015, Critique

Editor of Aravot.am

Every time on Aravot.am we quote any official statement from Azerbaijan or report on news happening in that country we receive critical comments.

I'm speaking, in particular, about Facebook users. And criticism is a mild way to put it — we receive direct insults and even profanities. About the latter, there's nothing to say: the authors of such comments, perhaps, know no other way to express their patriotism than uttering profanities on social networking sites. 

What I want to say concerns another type of criticism: sincere concerns or comments that give pause for thought. 

Let's begin from the easiest, comments of an almost technical nature: why we include an active hyperlink to Azerbaijani websites. Let me explain: We are simply fulfilling the requirement of the RA Law on Copyright and Related Rights [AM], which contains the following provision: " In republishing excerpts from websites' news articles, including an active hyperlink to the [original] website, as well as noting the domain of the website in the headline of the republished article is mandatory, if the purpose […] is only the reproduction of the original news article."

Pay attention: there's no condition in the law that this requirement doesn't refer to Azerbaijani or Turkish websites. So all those who are criticizing the inclusion of an active hyperlink are basically urging us to break the law.

Of course, there is the condition "if the purpose […] is only the reproduction of the original news article." But in our case, it applies, though suggestions that excerpts from Azerbaijani or Turkish websites must be provided with context are heard often. 

Other journalist and news outlets do that: stuffing every news story related with Azerbaijan with qualifiers or expressions laden with negative overtones. 

But this would contradict Aravot's Code of Ethics [AM], the first article of which is that Aravot's journalists strictly demarcate journalism from commentary. There is no room for personal judgments and emotions in news and reportage. 

A different matter all together is that we constantly try to get clarifications from the Armenian and Karabakh state agencies on these news pieces. Sometimes we do that even in the story; often, in a separate story. This too is a requirement of our Code of Conduct. 

But what to do when what is published is not the sort of information that needs clarification? Say, it's statement or announcement by one of Azerbaijan's leaders… in the opinion of some of our critics, these shouldn't be published at all, since they aim to demoralize the Armenian public. It is noteworthy that among those who believe this are also those who closely follow Azerbaijani media. In other words, they can know what the Azerbaijanis are saying but the rest cannot. 

What's the logic — the rest are not as mature or demoralization doesn't affect them? (And in general, it would be better for at least journalist-analysts in this matter to offer their professional comments and not remarks conditioned by propaganda expediency.)

And now the most important. Decidedly, we must make use of the Azerbaijani press very carefully. I myself, covering the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at one time, have had the opportunity to be convinced how their journalists distort the remarks of European officials for the benefit of their own country's propaganda expediency. And having seen that repeatedly, I wouldn't trust a statement they made on behalf of any third party. 

Clearly, we should not directly republish media reports of theirs that are done on behalf of Armenian POWs. First, this is a violation of the August 12, 1949 Geneva Convention relative to Treatment of Prisoners of War, according to which "prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

Furthermore, at the very least Armenian POW Hakob Injighulyan's example showed what his video messages and statements were as a result of and then the situation those news outlets on that basis that were quick to accuse him of treason found themselves in.

Therefore, agreeing that we should ignore obvious propaganda reports and be cautious about the reliability of the information they provide on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, rechecking the facts, I, nevertheless, think those who are certain that we should never cite anything from Azerbaijani sites are wrong.

I myself am confident that our readers are not stupid, can distinguish propaganda from journalism, and have the right to be informed of what happens not only in Armenia, but also in other countries, including Azerbaijan and Turkey. 

Anna Israelyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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