The article “The Sumgait tragedy: How it started and how it happened”, published on the website of the Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta on February 24 caused a stir in the Armenian information field. The author of the article was Azeri Lev Askerov, who claimed that it was the Armenians in Sumgait who started massacring Azeris. After the reaction of the Armenian side, the newspaper had to remove the article.
However, the scandal over this article did not receive comprehensive coverage in the Armenian media.
In particular, referring to the issue, ArmNews and Channel 5 raised questions during their February 26 news broadcast on why Armenian state institutions, as well as the Russian-Armenian community, did not respond to Azerbaijani propaganda.
Armnews TV host Abraham Gasparyan said in his evening news broadcast: “Those in charge of the information war in Armenia are silent. The propaganda vector seems to have been pushed inward. We had many skilled fake users in that war who were solving a serious problem at the time … There is no official response from our side yet.” He also added that they had contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which replied that they are following the matter and will report further on the outcome.
Channel 5 also voiced its concern during the main news release, noting that this Azerbaijani propaganda that was silent after the 1990s has now, for some reason, been re-activated. In a report covering the discussion of experts on the Sumgait events, political scientist Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan said that any such anti-Armenian propaganda experience in the past used to receive a serious and substantiated counterstrike. According to other experts, since there is no counter-argument from the Armenian side now, an unprecedented fertile ground has been created for Azerbaijan’s anti-propaganda.
What actions were taken against Azerbaijani propaganda article on Sumgait tragedy
However, it is noteworthy that despite these concerns voiced by the Armenian media, the Armenian side nevertheless took steps in response to the Azerbaijani propaganda. In particular, Armenian Ambassador to Russia Vardan Toghanyan stated that he had applied to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia in relation to the article on the Sumgait massacres in Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
“This publication contains a bunch of criminal articles, in relation to which I have appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office” the Armenian ambassador to the Russian Federation said in an interview with Govorit Moskva Radio. In addition, the editor-in-chief of the radio company Roman Babayan also responded to the publication of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “As a person who has gone through all this horror of the massacres of Armenians in Soviet Azerbaijan, I can say that if you can publish what you have published for money, then you are simply scams and rogues” Babayan said.
Following the reaction of the Armenian ambassador to Russia, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta editorial office removed the above material containing false information. Then, on February 26, Orbeli Center expert Taron Hovhannisyan’s article was published: “Khojalu. Truth and Fiction․ Debate with Mikhail Abayev”.
Armnews and Channel 5 provide partial coverage of anti-propaganda information
Despite this, the aforementioned TV companies, Armnews and Channel 5, avoided providing detailed coverage of information on the subject in their February 27 news broadcasts. Thus, Channel 5 briefly announced that it was the 32nd anniversary of Sumgait pogroms, not mentioning the developments of the previous day, and ArmNews only covered the issue on February 28 and noted that one day after the publication, the Armenian Embassy in Moscow responded to the scandalous article. Moreover, Amrnews did not mention that the article had been removed from Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
To sum up, we can state that these two Armenian TV channels did not fully cover developments with regard to the Azerbaijani propaganda over the Sumgait massacres, a circumstance that could have misled the viewers.