The situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh information war is 5:3

20.10.2020

With hand to hand fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, the test of force between Armenia and Azerbaijan has also reached the information space. Both fighting sides want to form a favorable perspective on what is happening. Propastop looks at how the Estonian media has dealt with this – we look at war coverage in ERR, Delfi and Postimees.

The success of your military is emphasized in your own and the enemy’s information space, as well as the rest of the world’s media with an aim to gather compassion and support. Attempts are made to portray the adversary as brutal and unethical, but one’s own struggle is presented as fair self-defence. Which side has been more successful in this information battle?

Who started it?
If the enemy can be shown as the initiator of the attack, the aggressor, then it could be considered a point victory in the information war.

At the beginning of the conflict, the media covered the messages of both Armenia and Azerbaijan equally, both accusing each other of initiating battles. Both sides also named the enemy in violation of the ceasefire agreements in the later weeks of the war. Thus, a 1: 1 draw remained in this information battle.

However, Azerbaijan can be considered with a small victory in their initial predominance in terms of moving images. Several attractive drone videos were broadcast in the Estonian media depicting the destruction of war machines. When the editors added a note to the material at the beginning of the clips, stating who filmed them, then such additions were later abandoned. Thus, it can be said that the pictorial side of the conflict was conducted largely by Azerbaijan, so it would be 1: 2 (we note Azerbaijan’s score in this media fight as the second team, i.e. as the visiting team).

Who is attacking civilians?
If you manage to portray your opponent as murderers killing peaceful inhabitants, this is a super plus point in the information battle.

In the news that mediated the initial events of the conflict, the bombing of civilian settlements on both sides was mentioned. However, as the fighting progresses, more and more information about the attacks on Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh reached the Estonian media. The main work was done by ERR and Delfi special correspondents Anton Alexeyev and Roman Starapopov, who traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to cover the conflict. They fill their publication with stories and pictures of suffering Armenians. No special correspondents traveled from Estonia to Azerbaijan and consequently no emotional videos are produced from that country. This preference for one side gives a firm point to Armenia; the score will be 2: 2

Who is using illegal weapons?
Showing that an opponent uses prohibited or otherwise unethical weapons will help boost the score in the information war.

The Armenian side is more successful in spreading this message, again thanks to the help of special correspondents from Estonia. The journalist points to a Smerch missile from Azerbaijan that has penetrated the pavement and says that it is prohibited ammunition. In addition, Armenia seeks to portray Azerbaijani drones as an unequally predominant weapon. You can also read in the news that jihadists are fighting on the side of the Azeri’s, which seems to be a negative connotation.

There are no messages about the use of illegal weapons by the Armenians in the Estonian media. Armenia takes the lead in the information war 3: 2

Who are supporting your side in the media?
By showing that you have both ordinary and famous people abroad, this is a definite point in the information war, even two.

Although the Estonian media tries to allow both Armenians and Azeris living in Estonia, to voice their opinions the message is not equally balanced. For example, Postimees titles the view of the Azeris living in Estonia in a relatively neutral way: “We are fighting the Armenians in our own country;” while the Armenians are much more blatantly portrayed “The Azeris have been raised to hate Armenians”. Point to Armenia, 4: 2

As far as famous people are concerned, the Azeris do not have such a spokesman for their side as, for example, the Armenian singer Stefan in Estonia or Kim Kardashian worldwide (she was even called a weapon of mass influence by Hannes Rumm in the Radio4 show “Teorija vbrosa“). Estonian Armenians also organized a peace march; the local Azeris have nothing similar to put out. Thus, the organized diaspora hand in hand with the Estonian media gives Armenia another point and the position is 5: 2

Who are your enemy’s allies behind the scenes?

If you manage to show your opponent as the pawn of an unfavourable superpower, it will help your score in the information war.

The Estonian media pointed out that the Azeris are supported by Turkey and the Armenians by Russia. Turkey seems to be actively supporting the Azeris, Russia seems to be sitting back on its hands and not being active. A story emerges that accuses Tsarist Russia of laying the groundwork for the conflict. Not all of this is enough to gain dominance in the information battle. Neither side scores and the score is still 5: 2

Which side has the historical right?
If it could be shown that the struggle for you is based on international, historical and human justice, it would put add an important point to the information war.

In the Estonian media, the average viewer has no clear understanding of who is the righteous party in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Everything seems too confusing to make the war on one side fairer than the other side, both seem guilty. According to political scientists, however, the battles are taking place on the territory of Azerbaijan and this assessment gives a small point to the Azeris 5: 3

According to Propastop, the final position on October 19 is therefore 5: 3 in favor of Armenia.
Consequently, the Estonian media seems to be in favor of Armenia in the current Karabakh information war. The side has not been selected as a result of substantive selection or balanced analysis. Instead, Armenia has been successful in involving Estonian journalists, mobilizing the diaspora and bringing out its perspective.

Pictures: screenshots of the media texts referenced in the story.