Selective blindness: Western media bias towards Azerbaijan - report

Politics Materials 31 March 2023 12:34 (UTC +04:00)
Selective blindness: Western media bias towards Azerbaijan - report

BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 31. Azerbaijan's Center of Analysis of International Relations has published a comprehensive report on biased attitudes towards Azerbaijan, in particular, the distorted coverage of the Karabakh War by some Western media, think tanks, and experts, Trend reports.

As it is noted in the report, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenian diaspora in the West was able to effectively integrate into the intellectual, academic, business, and cultural elites of various nations, and attain strong and influential positions.

"Furthermore, the Armenian diaspora effectively incorporated the “Armenian cause” and their narrative of victimization into the broader global liberal agenda, depicting themselves as one of the “historically oppressed” peoples. Substantial resources, including financial and human capital, have been devoted to “genocide recognition” campaigns for many years. This advocacy has resulted in the Armenian lobby amassing significant political support and financial resources, which have been instrumental in both the military aggression and information warfare against Azerbaijan by the Armenian state," said the report.

According to the report, in contrast, the Azerbaijani community in the West was virtually unknown before the collapse of the USSR and lacked representation in, or direct contact with, the Western world. The historical absence of Azerbaijani voices has resulted in the dominance of Armenian perspectives and narratives in public opinion.

"Only after independence in 1991 did the Azerbaijani community gain access to Western intellectual platforms and academic institutions, but the young generation of Azerbaijani experts and scholars have faced significant challenges due to established narratives and perceptions. They often face difficulty getting their perspectives published in Western academic journals and media, which frequently demonstrate a biased and intolerant approach towards their alternative viewpoint," said the article.

Experts of the Center of Analysis of International Relations note that before the second Karabakh war (September 27–November 10, 2020), most reporting and commentary on the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia aimed to justify the status quo and the legitimacy of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories. This was done through a so-called “balanced approach” that failed to distinguish between the aggressor and victim and ignored basic principles of international law.

The report provides some examples of bias against Azerbaijan, in particular, distorted coverage of the Karabakh war.

During the war, the number of events that were held publicly in Western cities were limited only to the Armenian side of the conflict and propagated the Armenian perspective. For example, on October 31, 2020, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) held an all-Armenian one-day conference, which, predictably, presented a pro-Armenian, one-sided narration of the past and current events.

In another instance, the Armenian Center at Columbia University held a discussion on November 5, with five Armenian panelists and no Azerbaijani presenter.

Furthermore, the Program on Peacebuilding and Rights (PBHR) at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) announced the launch of a research project, “Human Rights and Foreign Terrorist Activities in [so-called] Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh),” on November 12; this contained unfounded allegations about the deployment of Islamist terrorists on the side of Azerbaijan

Unfortunately, the one-sided approach to events in the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict is not only limited to events held by academic institutions. There have been instances of journalists and reporters who have failed to cover the situation in its entirety, shedding light only on one side of the conflict.

A Canadian would-be journalist and analyst, Neil Hauer, has been actively covering the events of the Second Karabakh War from the Armenian perspective. In his reporting during the conflict, Hauer has demonstrated numerous one-sided approaches to the events. Hauer’s reporting relied on sources such as “WarGonzo,” a channel on Telegram that is acknowledged as a biased and unreliable source that misled the Armenian population about the situation in the region throughout the war.

Another would-be journalist is Lindsey Snell, who was previously stationed in the Middle East and is suspected of connections with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and other affiliated terrorist organizations. Detained in 2016 for illegally crossing the Syrian–Turkish border, Snell used every opportunity, including the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict, to seek revenge on Türkiye for her detention. She reported one-sidedly about the conflict and even objected to findings by Human Rights Watch about war crimes committed during the conflict. She also retweeted some conspiracy theories concerning Amnesty International being bribed by Azerbaijan.

A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Michael Rubin, has been actively publishing anti-Azerbaijani articles in various media outlets, especially in the National Interest and Washington Examiner. In November 2020 alone, Rubin published ten op-eds in these journals, all openly one-sided, uninformed pieces spreading misleading anti-Azerbaijani narratives. His materials are filled with false information, including baseless and unconfirmed allegations about Azerbaijan’s military counter-operation which was conducted on its internationally recognized territory that had been held under Armenian occupation for twenty-seven years.

"The biased and one-sided approach towards Azerbaijan in general and the Armenia– Azerbaijan conflict, in particular, has been observed in the publications, activities, and statements of various media outlets, institutions, and journalists. The exclusion of the Azerbaijani perspective has raised questions about the impartiality and integrity of these media outlets and the respective journalists and experts," said the report.

"This one-sided approach, combined with indifference towards the rights and struggles of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons, has created extensive misperceptions about the conflict and has had invariably negative consequences for the efforts to resolve regional disputes peacefully. It is, therefore, crucial for all media platforms and individuals covering the region and the Armenia–Azerbaijan peace process to be neutral facilitators promoting peace, reconciliation, and respect for international legal norms," the report concluded.