On July 9, Armenian media reported that a group of Azerbaijani ‘saboteurs’ had penetrated Karvachar (Kalbajar), and Karabakh Defense Army frontline units apprehended some members of the group, while others fled.
Two videos were published, one of which had scenes shot from the mobile phone of the captured men, where they were barbecuing veal and talking about stealing the calf from Armenian herders; the other video was that shot by the defense army showing the arrest of one of the ‘saboteurs.’
Different versions of this story circulated for days in the local media. According to some published media reports, those arrested weren’t saboteurs, while other reports indicated that the ‘saboteur’ sold socks for 3 years in Armenia and pretended he was mute.
How did the Armenian media cover the Azerbaijani ‘saboteurs’ incident? Journalists respond.
Director of News and Political Programs, Yerkir Media TV
As in previous cases, this time as well news media outlets covered the topic according to their political views, instructions, and owners.
Some news outlets allowed huge flaws, giving every self-proclaimed military analyst the chance to speak, not providing a second point of view. Appearing in the media was unconfirmed information, which created a panic situation.
As in previous cases, this time too absent in the media was the background story. And as often happens in our media, some news outlets became the distributor of Azerbaijani propaganda.
In such cases, the media has to understand that the republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are in war, that journalism is a responsible job, and we are dealing with human destinies.
The story of the Azerbaijani saboteurs, unfortunately, might continue; thus, it’s important to establish a certain stance on this issue. I’m not talking about restricting freedom of speech but about how we should proceed when conveying information in such cases.
I think, some journalists and bloggers were conveying the information proceeding from the vicious habit of lashing at and discrediting the ruling authorities and the army. However, a large portion of people considered security issues to be the priority: Could this incident be repeated? How protected are our borders? Who is to blame, that the adversary can so easily penetrate the territory of not only Karabakh, but also Armenia?
In any case, military and law enforcement agencies were unable to catch up to the information appearing in the media — they only confirmed already published information. This proves that the press services of these structures also need to review their work.
As with past sabotage activities, this time too Armenian media forgot about law enforcement authorities’ reputation of concealing information and suddenly the defense ministry became a reliable source.
Even the news articles of reputable sites engaging in responsible journalism contained only official information, ignoring information received from the Azerbaijani side. And though, in this case, this information was incoherent, nevertheless, it could’ve been compared with the official information.
Reputable sites even presented official statements as fact, not noting in the headline that it’s a defense ministry statement.
The press service of the defense ministry, in turn, was taking the topic to a moral and psychological ground. Instead of doing its work, it was engaged in patriotic rhetoric. When we would call to verify information, they would say they are confirming the information, but they are leaving publishing that information on our conscience.
This is the problem: when it comes to coverage of Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, our news outlets stop being news outlets and take upon themselves the functions of the defense and foreign affairs ministries.