The renewed armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has sparked a new information war in the region. Together with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, anti-Western rhetoric and disinformation online campaigns have intensified on social platforms and online media. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been used by various media outlets in attempts to provoke ethnic strife. Consequently, the xenophobic online discourse has intensified as well.
Democracy Research Institute (DRI) continues media monitoring of ethno-nationalist disinformation narratives around Nagorno-Karabakh. In February and March, 210 articles and posts published on 6 Telegram channels, 12 Facebook pages, and 12 websites were analyzed.
As a result of continuous observation, it can be said that Russian traces and network content were noticeable in the disinformation campaign. Photo/video manipulation, which is frequently utilized by Russian propaganda, was a common tool of the disinformation campaign.
The disinformation narratives studied were grouped into three main areas during the reporting period: anti-Azerbaijani, anti-Armenian, and anti-Western.
Anti-Western and Anti-Liberal Discourse on Social Media
In Georgia, various media platforms and far-right leaders often use the Karabakh conflict to demonize Western institutions. Pro-Russian media outlets such as Georgia and the World and Tvalsazrisi have been actively engaged in discreditation of the Liberal West by emphasizing Russia's dominance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Their main message links Armenia's failure in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to its pro-European foreign policy and presents color revolutions as unsuccessful examples of the "Liberal West project".
Anti-Armenian Online Discourse
A comprehensive analysis of the posts examined in the framework of the media monitoring revealed that the posts with anti-Armenian content had the highest online engagement. During the reporting period disinformation about the mass resettlement of Armenians displaced from Karabakh in Abkhazia received special attention. Information initially spread by Azerbaijani website day.az was soon caught up by Caucasusplus, a publication known for its Armenophobic sentiments. On February 9th, they published an article „Armenian migrants rushing into occupied Georgian Abkhazia en masse“.
Misinformation about the mass resettlement of Armenians in Abkhazia was spread on Facebook groups: „Abkhazian Assembly“, „Refugees for Refugees“ and „People’s National Movement.“ Online engagement on the posts exceeded 33,000 people.
Amid the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the anti-Azerbaijani discourse has also intensified. Disinformative posters with the caption "Marneuli is a territorial unit of Azerbaijan called Borchalo" caused resonance on social platforms and online media. Posters were spread on Armenian and Russian-languaged Telegram channels and online media platforms - kentron.am, MAMUL.am.ru, Hay mtorum. Each post had a Russian-language caption explaining that the poster was Azerbaijani propaganda, pressing that “appetite comes with eating.” The original source is a post published on Russian-language disinformation platform АЗЕРБАЙДЖАН online in 2019, with posters captioned "Remember. Save. Share".
Considering the tensions in the region, spreading such a provocative narrative and creating an image of an enemy out of Azerbaijan is a dangerous message of a disinformation campaign.
Anti-Western, Anti-Armenian, and anti-Azerbaijani discourse in online media
* * * *
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.