Purposefully misinformative messages about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are being spread in the online media that aims to discredit neutral role of Georgia in the conflict. In parallel to the misinformative campaign against the neutrality of the country, an alarming tendency of intentional spreading of provocative, false information that could provoke xenophobic attitudes and inflame ethnic hatred in the country has emerged.
Democracy Research Institute is keeping an eye on the ethno-nationalist, xenophobic and disinformation narratives around Nagorno-Karabakh in the online media discourse as a part of the media monitoring program. In December and January, 320 articles and posts published on 5 Telegram channels, 10 Facebook pages, and 10 websites were analysed.
It can be said that there an active disinformation campaign is being held on social media around the conflict. In many cases, the disinformation media campaign is of networking character and deliberately creates manipulative/fake content, which incites ethnic strife.
Anti-Azerbaijani Disinformation Campaign Messages
Armenian and Georgian-language media platforms, telegram channels, and Facebook pages often spread misinformative messages to incite hatred between ethnically Armenian and Azerbaijani populations in Georgia and create the image of Azerbaijan as an enemy trying to occupy Georgian Territories.
An announcement of the online charity concert International Solidarity for Artsakh by the Georgian branch of the Institute for Multichannel Diplomacy (IMDT), a non-governmental organization, in a statement issued a statement on January 11, can be classified as an attempt to stir up the anti-Azerbaijani sentiment. The statement was followed by protests from both the civil sector and Georgia’s ethnically Azerbaijani population. The concert date coincided with the National Mourning Day of the Azerbaijani people, which they saw as a deliberate provocation, while the open support of Nagorno-Karabakh, was assessed as disregard of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Another case of anti-Azerbaijani messages spread by the concert organizer was targeted against the oil company SOCAR. The Public Radio of Armenia published an article “SOCAR threatens “to leave the Georgians standing next to Artsakh “hungry”” on their website. Georgian-language telegram channel Artsakh Now – Karabakh Now, which actively covers current issues around Nagorno-Karabakh shared this article.
The misinformation spread in January about the attack on Armenian trucks by Azerbaijanis in Marneuli can also be considered an attempt to incite strife on ethnic grounds. In Samtskhe-Javakheti news site response to the Armenian telegram channel Mediaport, it was stated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia did not confirm the fact of Azerbaijani armed forces opening fire on Armenian trucks in Marneuli. In addition, the Samtskhe-Javakheti Information Portal investigated the photo attached to the disinformation and found that it was taken in 2018. The disinformative news was published on the Armenian and Russian-language portal Voice of Armenia. The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Georgia published an official statement as a response, explaining that the attack on the Armenian trucks took place not in Marneuli, but in Ponichala, with perpetrators yet to be identified. The online platform for verifying the Armenian-language facts infocheck.am also responded and assessed the information spread by the Armenian media as misinformation.
Armenophobic Disinformation Campaign Messages
Armenophobic sentiments have also intensified as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the disinformation campaign started in its wake. On January 1, Telegram channel Javakh published a photo post, reporting that a symbolic ceremony dedicated to Armenian compatriots killed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was held by Armenians living in Samtskhe-Javakheti on New Year's Eve. The information was spread by the Azerbaijani platform hurriyyet. A Georgian page known for its Armenophobic rhetoric Kavkazplius responded. In the articles published by them, the terms “terrorist” and “separatist” are used to describe the ethnically Armenian population of Ninotsminda Municipality, while the ceremony dedicated to Armenian soldiers is referred to as “blasphemy” and “worship of terrorist fighters.” The online interaction on these articles exceeded 1,400 people.
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The project “Coexistence - the study of ethno-nationalist narratives in Georgia” is being implemented with the financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Georgia. The material prepared by the Democracy Research Institute in the framework of the project and the views expressed may not coincide with the views of the donor organization.
Armenophobic and Anti-Azerbaijani Messages Spread Through Disinformative Media Campaign