By Alina Arustamian
The lives of Nagorno-Karabakh inhabitants turned upside down in one day. On the 27th September 2020 the Azerbaijani forces attacked the Republic of Artsakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalated again to an open war and brought many casualties, destructions and changes for Armenia. Due to the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, the main part of Armenian stage of the international project Media Dialogue 2020 for Pluralism and Understanding was devoted to discussing these terrible events, the course of the war and the work of journalists during the hostilities.
It is important to note that the online conference began with a commemoration of all the victims of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. As Mr. Wolfgang Ressmann said: “We should take a minute of silence for the casualties of this cruel war, which happened a few weeks ago”.
Thanks to Mkrtich Tonoyan, director of AKOS Cultural NGO, the participants had the opportunity to listen to the opinions and stories of Armenian spokesmen. They talked about the background of the war and information warfare. One main speaker was Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan, editor-in-chief of Voskanapat.info and Times.am. He spoke about the history of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, geopolitical excursion and media development.
Firstly, he mentioned that the hostilities between Armenian and Azerbaijan have got more than 100 years of history. The most active phase of this conflict was during the collapse of the Soviet Union and started in February 1988 as an ethnic conflict. In the conflict escalated to a large scale war in 1990 that lasted until 1994, because the Republic of Artsakh announced its sovereignty from the Soviet Union, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan did. Despite the same rules and international regulations, Azerbaijan did not accept the choice of most of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to have and live in an independent country. As a result, the war, that lasts to this day, started.
At this time, Mr. Melik-Shahnazaryan was a 6-7-year-old child, but he well remembers this massive war in Stepanakert (the capital of the Republic of Artsakh). He wrote a book «Նվիրումի վկայություն» (“Testimony of Devotion”) about all his memories of the First Karabakh War and published it just one week before the start of recent war.
The second discussed topic was the geopolitical issue. Mr. Melik-Shahnazaryan underlined the importance of this item: “Now I will say something about the geopolitical issue of this war because it is not just a confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan but there is also a big influence of geopolitical countries such as the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union in face of France and of course regional countries especially Turkey, which was trying to do everything to be involved in the political process of our region, of South Caucasus”. From 1994, when the first war was over, there was a negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The Minsk Group is an international institution, which was formed to solve the conflict without war. The negotiations were held by France, the United States, the Russian Federation, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Turkey was always trying to be involved in this negotiations process for the last 25 years.
Mr. Melik-Shahnazaryan said that the main geopolitical shift in this situation was the announcement of Turkey to support Azerbaijan before this year’s escalation of the conflict. “So, if we speak about the main geopolitical issue of this war, we can say that Turkey is now a very active part of the policy in the South Caucasus region. The role of the United States and France in this conflict has been very decreased because, as you can see, there was the Russian president’s efforts to stop the war and now all these negotiations are going mainly with Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. And the Minsk Group Co-Chairs institute, I can say, now is not working” – he summed up.
And the last topic of the Mr. Melik-Shahnazaryan’s speech was the work of media during and after the war. He also showed photos of his journalistic work in Nagorno-Karabakh. And, as he mentioned, it was very difficult and hard to work during the hostilities because there were problems with the internet and connection. Moreover, at the first day, they used a special technique for air broadcasting, but on the second day, they were forced to stop using it, because the Azerbaijani side was following their work, and then they just were bombing these areas. After that, they started to work with studios or in dark places where Azerbaijani sides couldn’t find them. Now, according to Mr. Melik-Shahnazaryan, after the war, media workers don’t need any accreditations to work in Artsakh. Their journalistic work has not got any restrictions.
After the speech, the participants of the international project were able to ask questions and to dive deeper into this topic and form an idea of the current situation in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Photos by Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: