On July 12, when it was known that Azerbaijan launched military operations against the Armenian positions in Tavush marz, guidelines were published as to how to deal with information during wartime.
Nevertheless, some Armenian media outlets together with representatives of the former government and opposition blamed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his Government for provoking a war, poor work on the diplomatic front, begging for peace and concealing information. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side launched an extensive cyberattack.
Cyberattack by the Azerbaijani Side
Experts on cyber security were warning that the Azerbaijani services were spreading misinformation via broken accounts of Armenian users on behalf of the Government.
Former and incumbent spokespersons of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) were also warning on regular basis that the Azerbaijanis were acting intensively in the cyber domain – news about fierce battles, losses, lack of blood and the like as well as SMSs were false. They urged to only follow the official newsfeed.
Breaking accounts of several users they started to publish posts in Facebook groups as if, according to the message received from someone’s brother serving in the Army, the Armenian side had more than 44 victims or the Armenian side had lost 12 military bases with Pashinyan deceiving people, or as if the Armenian side had 70 victims and 300 injured men, or there was no place in hospitals and the reality was being concealed from the people.
A fake profile was also created in the representation of MoD spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan through which misinformation was disseminated.
To cause confusion among the civilians the Azerbaijani sources posted voice messages on social networks in the Armenian language in which the servicemen of the Armenian Armed Forces were allegedly complaining about the situation on the border and speaking of a big number of casualties.
The Azerbaijani website “haqqin.az” also disseminated false information posting photos of Narek Petrosyan and Slavik Kaytsakov as if those of ones who had died along the Tavush border. Narek Petrosyan himself reacted to the publication pointing out that he came across the news about his “death” on the internet. Slavik Kaytsakov, too, informed “Fip.am” that we was alive and well.
On July 17, the Ministry of Defense informed that the opponent had spread another false information still early in the morning – some subscribers of mobile operators had received an SMS on behalf of the MoD official website – MIL.AM, as if the situation on the border was tense and the Armenian side had losses.
In response to this, the Ministry came up with the statement that the information was false and that it had nothing to do with the message.
Government Targeted by the Opposition
Immediately following the start of hostilities hints regarding some arrangements with the Azerbaijani side were made by representatives of the former government.
Margarit Yesayan, member of the Republican Party, expressed suspicion through a Facebook post as if Nikol Pashinyan had made arrangements with the President of Azerbaijan for starting hostilities. “What an agreement have you reached, speak, what have you promised, speak, as an RA citizen, do I have the right to seek the causal link between your son’s demobilization and this attack, I am asking – do I have the right?”, read the post.
Chairman of the “Civil Consciousness” NGO, Narek Samsonyan, who spreads active counterpropaganda against the present Government, shared the same conviction. “So, we come to feel consequences of Ashot’s demobilization. Well, the “intelligent friend” with his beard would certainly not have shot on his friend’s son”, he wrote.
Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party Armen Ashotyan was stating through active posts that unlike the success they had in the past, nowadays Armenia is exercising poor diplomacy, and labeled the present Government as one “of all thumbs”. “The nation’s self-preservation instinct works by uniting all of us around our nation’s child – the Armenian Army, and despite the “peace-loving” efforts of the Government’s propagandists. Yet, immorality of the Government representatives recognizes neither a trench nor a soldier’s blood, nor a state”, he wrote.
Criticism launched against peace-loving calls mainly referred to the call-post by Prime Minister’s wife Anna Hakobyan for “Ceasing the military operations and moving towards peace”.
Though former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Vatican Mikayel Minasyan wrote in a Facebook post that we should follow the course of events with sober judgment, not impede the Army, and respond quickly to the needs of the state, he described the events as a “large-scale attack” and “war” by Azerbaijan. His criticism was addressed to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for describing the enemy’s actions as a “military incident”, and to the Prime Minister’s wife Anna Hakobyan for coming up with “another peace-loving initiative” in the present situation.
“The Government with no inputs today brought the country to the threshold of a new war”. This is how Political Expert Melik Shahnazaryan characterized the government’s working style in his Facebook account. He criticized the MFA for non-efficient efforts and “the pointless, degrading and fruitless attempt of involving the CSTO, full of dangerous consequences”. In another post, he insisted that a family of traitors rules in our country.
Blogger Tigran Kocharyan used a Facebook post to answer the questions why the CSTO did not interfere with the events. “The CSTO interferes only in those cases when a member state applies to it with such a request. Yet, they should have the nerve to apply after all that happened to Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov whose son-headed corps is now fighting in Tavush and is fighting quite successfully”, he wrote.
To have his part in the topic, RPA member Eduard Sharmazanov wrote, “Among the real heroes are father and son Khachaturovs. Although the hero father is judged by the Government, the sun still continues to heroically defend the homeland against the attacks of Azerbaijan”.
Government Targeted by the Armenian Media
Some Armenian media outlets, citing their sources, tried to disclose the information as if having been “concealed” by the Armed Forces or to criticize the ruling force through sharp analytical materials.
In particular, an article entitled “Where is Nikol Pashinyan?” was published on “Medmedia.am” on July 13, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was criticized for “keeping silent” with respect to the armed conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and making no statement to the public with this respect. The publication was fiercely argued not only on social networks but also on websites on the grounds that targeting the head of the state while having tense situation on the border Armenian media outlets make our army vulnerable. Thereupon, the publication was removed.
On July 14, an article was published on “Hraparak.am”, according to which in one of the military units located in Tavush marz the opponent damaged a “facility of strategic importance”.
In response to the objections that the information had nothing to do with the reality, “Hraparak.am” replied that “Instead if drawing the international community’s attention to the aggression by Azerbaijan official Yerevan is concealing information and trying to silence the mass media”.
On July 14, “Yerevan.today” published an article by the “Alternative Projects” Group entitled “Odd Absence of the Government on these Days is Alarming” where it was mentioned that no Security Council meeting had been convened in connection with the Armenian-Azerbaijani hostilities, and appropriate public awareness had not been provided, either. The Group once more raised this issue on July 17 pointing out that President of Russia Vladimir Putin had discussed the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border with members of the RF Security Council, whereas, no Security Council meeting had been summoned in Armenia since the hostilities had started.
“7or.am” entitled the analytical material of July 15 as “How to “Lose” the Diplomatic Front”. The author of the article wrote, “Despite the fake pacifistic aspirations by some representatives of the “My Step” Party with Armenian surnames, among them Prime Minister-Dictator Pashinyan and his wife, the world’s reactions on the adequate counterattack by our armed forces to the enemy are “balanced” outwardly (except for the hysteric reaction by Turkey); yet it seems so only at first sight”.
On July 16, “Shame.am” published an article entitled “Pashinyan Nikol on the Funeral of his Victim”, according to which “the Azerbaijani side has no connection with the aggression; it was provoked by Pashinyan Nikol pretending to be the people’s prime minister while being an American agent”.
Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that the monitoring conducted on these days made it clear that either the opposition or individual public and political figures or all of the Armenian media outlets shared the same position towards the Armed Forces during the hostilities unleashed by Azerbaijan conveying the conviction that the Army enjoys people’s trust and unqualified support.
Thus, it can be recorded that in the information warfare, there was too much misinformation disseminated by the Azerbaijani side, while the Armenian media industry followed the official newsfeed as much as possible with only a few exceptions.