“It is unpleasant and dishonest to use media weapons, from which the soldiers are the first to suffer”

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

The aggravation of the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the hostilities and the shootings in Tavush immediately became the cause of various media activities. Including for individuals, groups and parties with their own interests.

Vardine Grigoryan ties the shaking and manipulation of the tense and emotional media space over the past two days with trust towards the state.

According to her, people with small and medium interests, subconsciously realizing that the army is now more efficient and the borders are better protected, allow themselves to be irresponsible.

It’s as though mobilization is not necessary now.

Vardine, who is the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly’s Vanadzor office’s report-monitoring coordinator for democratic institutions, also seeks to draw attention to the dishonest content of the news cauldron, which needs at least some analysis and separation of components.

What kind of commentary does it take to describe the hostilities? What prevents you from being restrained when quoting, especially, tithe and manipulative opinions?

I think a lot of emotion gets in the way. We always tend to look at the situation with excessive emotion, which is not a useful quality.

Previous experience also interferes, when, in the past, we did not trust the official news and constantly waited for the people on the spot to tell us what was really going on.

On the other hand, a person who is now on the border or in the spotlight does not have much sense of what is happening around him. He may not know what is happening next to him because he does not see the big picture. And in this case, the information received from on the scene can also be fragmentary.

But if we trust the official news, then we know that we are getting information from different places in a combination that is complete.

The problem is, some people question that.

As we do not trust the official Azerbaijani information, we start relying on information from individual sources, which can also be a trap. For example, in order to aggravate internal panic, users with Armenian surnames are thrown into the information field.

Then our people spread their opinion, saying that it is reliable data that we have defeated the enemy. Such news can build self-confidence or pride at the moment, but in the long run, it will not have a positive effect. It simply creates false expectations and false hopes that have little to do with reality.

There are many emotions, both fear and excitement.

And in fact, it turns out that the person who is ready to be afraid begins to find scary news, and the one who is ready to win begins to see the news that particularly confirms his enthusiasm.

The desire to win not only in war but in any debate is always pleasant. It is easy to believe that you are a winner when you read only “good” news.

The pleasure of winning is quite cheap, it makes you see victory in everything. We used to love moral victories. In other words, when you focus on winning, not on seeing the truth, you are only increasing the share of such “good” winning news.

In fact, you can not say which is better. I may say something contradictory, but now we are not talking about the struggle against Aliev, but about the people, a part of which could not spend their time in service safely and found themselves in a place where they were forced to die.

There are many interesting observations during the war.

When you read the news and take out the name of the country, in many cases you will see the same vocabulary and the same structure.

The situation is so similar on both sides that you are almost indistinguishable, especially when it comes to pain.

Have there been any such attempts at text analysis?

I remember that during the April war, a text was spread where the country was not mentioned. The news was that the village mayor had misappropriated the money intended for the tombstone of the killed soldier-hero.

We had such complaints (I do not know how true they were), but there was a feeling that such a thing was possible in a corrupt system, both peoples were used. In other words, the authorities use human pain and loss for their own narrow purposes.

There is a big crisis in Azerbaijan now, not only political and civil activists are being pressured, but various quarantine restrictions are being applied, especially to put pressure on the opposition.

Against this background, of course, they needed such an emotional stimulus to raise the fighting spirit, showing that the enemy is outside, not inside.

When Aliev is hostile to his people, he immediately reminds them that Armenia exists.

I think identifying the state with the leader is a classic authoritarian trick. And the media in Armenia should really work more restrained and smarter than in Azerbaijan or Russia.

For example, it was very problematic that at the very moment when there were shootings at the border, “Aravot” spread a story that sectarianism threatens national security.

Such narratives divide society.

Our church often uses its monopoly to show that there is religious unity, which is not the case. There are young people serving in the Armenian army who are followers of different religions, or are atheists, or have other nationalities, and therefore religious peculiarities.

We have to talk about a very diverse army, which can not be distinguished by one feature.

And publishing the article with this headline hence in a war situation, the media gives a message: look, we have enemies outside, but we also have them inside.

I think it is unpleasant and dishonest to use such media weapons at the moment because the soldiers are the ones who suffer from it first of all. And there is no need to strain relations between them.

After all, combat effectiveness is conditioned by the dignity of servicemen. Soldiers in an efficient army should not be oppressed or their rights violated.

Is the media doing this intentionally or unknowingly?

It seems to me that these are actions of self-defense. When they see attempts to narrow the area, they naturally attack. I do not know to what extent the media are a part of it.

I think that at that moment those who post the news on the website (I do not mean the full media) do not take the time to think. They may not realize the consequences, thinking that it is a small, ordinary matter.

And the public, which combines all the news, sees very well what the messages are.

All of us are receiving information and trying to process it by dividing it into groups. And if security is at the heart of our news today, then we will try to understand what its threats are.

It is very possible that some of the threats we read are not threats at all or have nothing to do with security, but in all cases, we create a mental series.

And it turns out that national security is threatened by those who do not want the “History of the Armenian Church” to be taught in schools, who talk about rights, have a different religion, and at the same time are in another country.

They put everyone in one pot and say, look, these are our threats.

In some cases, new threats arise, depending on political preferences (past, present, or future). And people naturally perceive them, sometimes without realizing how that information is combined.

It can even be seen in social media comments. We see how the news about the shootings is rapidly connected with bonuses, the fight against the Coronavirus, Arsen Torosyan’s decisions.

That is, the series of threats is downloaded to people in one line.

And realizing that, we need to separate the elements of information. So that you do not add something new to the already existing frustration, especially if the sources and content are different.

In April 2016, the attitude towards information was different. We did not spread anything except the official media, there was no criticism of the authorities, there were many opportunities. Now the picture is different. There seem to be no barriers (for example, in this case).

I remember that during the April war, for the first time in my life, I thanked the Ministry of Defense for publishing operative information, although it was obviously not used to that regime.

There was a great deal of trust in the official source. Of course, there were problems that were later revealed, but it was during the war that there was a general mobilization. And now it is different.

I honestly think that now there are few people who do not imagine the impact of what they say. They are just sitting on the needle to create a sensation and be as provocative as possible. These are people who tell one lie after another and enjoy it.

Indeed, sometimes the impression is that they are simply enjoying receiving insults and verbal attacks. And that is absolutely incomprehensible.

I suppose they subconsciously understand that the army is now more efficient and the border areas are better protected, so the danger is not so great.

That is, if they thought the real danger and threat was great, they might be more careful. But I say this based on their presumption of innocence.

If in April we realized how vulnerable the border can be, given the high level of corruption, and how much support we all have, then in the last two years we have learned to rely on the state.

It’s both good and bad. It means that we have concentrated and authorized the authorities to act on our behalf and solve the problems, now we have become just claimants.

In 2016, there was no state we trusted, now it seems there is, which prevents some people from realizing how important a sense of personal responsibility is.

Or, of course, there are exceptional characters who will not be understood in any way, but I am optimistic that they, in any case, realize that now the state is in a much more favorable position and do not see a particular threat in what they do.

As far as we understand, whispering, throwing information, swearing and receiving swears are well monetized. Many people get paid for it.

It is really difficult to understand the mentality of these people, even in the case of money. It seems to me that there is not enough money to force a person to humiliate his own country.

If we talk about countries like Azerbaijan or Russia, where the authorities and the people are sharply separated and removed from each other, it may be possible to understand. But now, when there are no objective grounds for that distance, you cannot avoid personal responsibility for the state that we have created and actually created ourselves through a struggle.

Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan

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