Democracy Research Institute (DRI) summarizes results of the six months monitoring of the ongoing online media discourse about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in its final report. During the monitoring, DRI team analyzed 620 articles and posts published on 6 telegram channels, 15 Facebook pages, and 12 websites.
The media monitoring revealed that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was actively used by pro-Russian media outlets in Georgia, both to create manipulative, fake content, as well as to spread strategic pro-Russian messages. In general, traces of Russian influence and manipulative content were noticeable in the disinformation campaign. In many cases, the first source of misinformative narratives spread on Armenian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani media platforms was Russian-language media.
Continuous media monitoring identified 5 online platforms that spread ethnonationalist and misinformative narratives most ardently. Armenophobic discourse was headed by „Kavkaz Plus“, anti-Azerbaijani narratives were being spread Armenian-language telegram channels karabah_news and Kolorit 18+, while Facebook pages Turkey is an Occupier and Azimuth were particularly active with anti-Turkish rhetoric.
During the reporting period, disinformation narratives studied were grouped into four main areas: anti-Azerbaijani, Armenophobic, anti-Turkish and anti-Western.
Anti-Western and anti-Turkish discourse on social media
During the reporting period, anti-Turkish rhetoric became particularly widespread due to prospective hydropower plant construction projects. Anti-Western media actors portrayed the construction of the Namakhvani HPP in the Rioni Gorge by the Turkish company Enka as Turkey’s attempt to expand economically and politically in Georgia. Facebook pages „Turkey is an Occupier“ and „Kardhu“ were actively using Namakhvani HPP to spearhead an anti-Turkish campaign, painting an icon of Georgia's historical enemy out of Turkey. Disinformative media outlets also tried to demonize the Euro-Atlantic institutions, following the anti-Turkish rhetoric. In particular, they sought to highlight inaction by the European Union and NATO in face of the “Turkish threat”.
The goal of the anti-Turkish campaign was to stir up pro-Russian sentiment in the society by presenting Russia as the country that saved Georgia from Turkish expansion. In December, the pro-Russian Facebook page „Stalin“ and media platform „News Front“ published identical content, claiming that Russia helped return Turkish-occupied lands to Georgia and thus it was wrong to present Russia as a historical threat.
As for Nagorno-Karabakh, as soon as the conflict between the parties ended, a new media narrative emerged, according to which Russia is a force with no alternative in the region, which, further expanded its military contingent in the Caucasus at the end of the war.
Armenophobic online discourse
With the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenophobic rhetoric became more intense. Tendency to incite hatred on ethnic grounds and create hot spots in the regions of Georgia inhabited by ethnic Armenians emerged.
In January, the focus of Armenophobic media platforms zeroed in on the charity foundation “Javakheti by Armenians’ Side”, when its Ninotsminda branch opening described by Armenophobic media platform Caucasusplius as a separatist and terrorist act.
During the reporting period, the disinformative news about the mass resettlement of Armenians displaced from Karabakh in Abkhazia was particularly popular. The misinformation was spread by: „Abkhazian Assembly“, „IDPs for IDPs“ and „People’s National Movement.“ Online interaction on the posts exceeded 33,000 people.
Amid the military confrontation in Nagorno-Karabakh, pro-Russian media in Georgia intensified anti-Azerbaijani media discourse in Georgia. Attempts to create an enemy icon out of Azerbaijan were noticeable on Russian-language media platforms and social networks.
Misinformation was spread about ethnic clashes between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijani in Marneuli. At various times during the reporting period, Armenian-language telegram channels and media platforms spread fake news about the attack of Azerbaijani armed forces on Armenian trucks in Marneuli. Fake posters with the inscription "Marneuli is a territorial unit of Azerbaijan called „Borchalo“," were highly resonant in social and online media. The first source to spread the poster was the Russian-language platform AZERBAIJAN online.
A tendency among the far-right forces emerged for attempts to incite ethnic and religious strife between the ethnic Azerbaijani and Georgian populations. In this regard, their networking strategy for a disinformation media campaign about the theft of the cross erected on Gagi Fortress on January 27, 2021, and the physical confrontation that took place on May 16 in Dmanisi is particularly noteworthy.
Far-right groups and media platforms tried to use the confrontation in Dmanisi to stir up anti-Azerbaijani sentiments. The conflict was covered from the ground by the ultranationalist media „Alt-Info“. Alt-Info described the incident to be provoked by ethnic Azerbaijanis.
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Project "Coexistence - Study of Ethno-Nationalist Narratives in Georgia" is being implemented with the financial support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Georgia. The materials prepared by the Democracy Research Institute in the framework of the project and the opinions expressed may not represent the views of the donor organization.