A number of systemic mistakes made during the war and its aftermath will have long-lasting negative consequences in the information field. Trust will be a coveted but deficient commodity for a long time to come.
Ten years ago, the information provided by the army earned very little trust.
The public opinion, which was based on facts, believed that the Ministry of Defense and the Defense Army hid almost all the facts related to the murders or other cases of violence in the army.
Often horrific cases were either hidden or the case developed in such a strange way that the judicial system could not give clear answers for more than a decade.
The situation began to change in 2010 when several tragic incidents took place in the positions. One of them was connected with an Azerbaijani soldier, who managed to cross the border and take the lives of four soldiers. Some of them happened one after the other and they were already connected with internal problems, and servicemen were killed once again.
The cases spread very rapidly across social networks, the Ministry of Defense responded with a much longer delay. At the time it already became clear that a new reality had been created, hiding information became almost impossible in the presence of social networks. From that day on, the army began to change its information policy. And several years of working with journalists, editors and the whole of society had an effect.
Already during the border escalations in 2014 and 2015, the Armenian society mainly trusted the information provided by the army. It was already obvious that the army presented information as openly as possible to the public.
The Azerbaijani side, in its turn, went in the opposite direction. Information about military operations and losses began to be hidden more and more. Often the military losses in the ranks of the Azerbaijani army were presented as accidents or other incidents. Later, already during the April war, Azerbaijan kept the data on losses almost completely closed.
These developments had a very clear setback: There was an indescribable amount of public confidence in the information provided by the army in Armenia.
In November 2020, the trust created over the span of a decade vanished.
What were the main mistakes during this period?
a. The main and biggest problem, of course, we all know. Society should not constantly receive victory announcements and face the fact of an unexpected defeat within a minute. This is a political, social and thousand and one other type of problem, moreover, a tragedy. From a purely informational point of view, the trust in the Ministry of Defense and in general, an arbitrary state structure doesn’t add up to zero but it goes strictly into negative numbers. It will take years for people to at least start not to consider every statement as being a lie again.
b․ The information provided was not synchronized. Different structures contradicted each other, it was not noticed at first, but over time it became more and more obvious.
c․ In general, the state information machine was not ready for long-term operations. At some point, most of the information was emotional, not substantive. At some point, this forced the public to receive information from other sources. Telegram channels came to the foreground, where a large amount of unverified information was circulating.
d․ The sharp increase of views on Telegram and YouTube channels revealed another systemic problem: No military expert community was formed in Armenia. The army is also to blame for this. As a result, we had to listen to experts from other countries, some of whom served the interests of other countries.
The lack of information, the spread of mainly emotional-slogan information by the army, also had a negative role in the international information field. Experts and journalists were sufficiently informed about the humanitarian crisis on the Armenian side. The two ombudsmen of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh were working well, and many foreign journalists were there. However, the information of military nature was very scarce, what was there was not clear. Videos, maps, etc. provided almost exclusively by Azerbaijan were used as a result.
The uncoordinated, often hidden information has led to a situation where many cases cannot be analyzed today, as there is not even a vague picture.
The fall of Shushi remains a secret. And the officials are offended in vain when they hear that Shushi has fallen, the war has been stopped altogether under the current conditions as a result of betrayal. When a person can not understand how the regular army of Azerbaijan armed with equipment managed to enter Shushi, he starts thinking about conspiracy, betrayal. The problem is that a clear picture was not presented to the people. And now, even if it is presented, many will not believe, because the trust has been destroyed.
P.S. Let me add at the end that I also see my guilt in all this. It is easy to analyze many phenomena in retrospect, to understand that it was possible to try to correct something. Those who are strong in the back of their mind usually do not manage to change anything in time, especially in times of crisis.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.