As security analysts recently punched holes in several claims made by Armenia to discredit Azerbaijan, the campaign of disinformation is pushing the two sides toward large-scale military conflict.
An archived photograph of famous Turkish singer, Serdar Ortac, has recently been misused by the Armenian Public radio to describe him as an Azerbaijani soldier killed in the conflict.
The radio station dug out an old photograph of the Turkish singer in military uniform to accompany an article on the death toll of Azerbaijani soldiers. The misuse of the photo adds to a string of other disputed military-related claims put forward during the fighting, generating a new discussion on how military-related disinformation are adding complications to the conflict.
#Armenia posted pictures of Turkish singer Serdar Ortac and actor Kaan Girgin in a published "list" of allegedly killed with #Azerbaijan soldiers. They are in Turkey and alive🤭— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) October 22, 2020
Shushan Stepanyan, the press secretary of Armenia's defence ministry, announced the downing of five unmanned aerial vehicles — a claim debunked by defence experts.
According to security analysts, the footage shared by Stepanyan did not show a sufficient amount that would be considered as valid. Arda Mevlutoglu, a renowned Turkish defence analyst, questioned the announcement in a thread that concluded the news was nothing short of being a ‘corrupt’ claim.
More recently, Hikmet Hajiyev, the assistant to the president of Azerbaijan shared a photograph of rubble in Gabala, condemning Armenia for targeting Azerbaijan's ‘gorgeous touristic centre’.
Hajiyev referred to the area hit as being outside of its military operations. Shortly after, Armenia’s press secretary of the minister of defence of Armenia responded to the announcement as ‘utter nonsense and a cynic lie’.
"Fake information about Syrian fighters and Turkish planes"
The conflict is reaching new heights as each side accuses one another of spreading false information, prompting the international audience to also view the conflict as an ‘information war’.
The international community are pressing for peace, but as a campaign of disinformation and propaganda unleashes, such could further entangle the process. One claim that is ongoing and disputed are the presence of foreign mercenaries in the conflict. The most common that has attracted global attention is the insistence that Syrian fighters are being sent to Azerbaijan to fight in the conflict.
Fariz Ismailzade, the Vice Rector for External, Government and Student affairs at the ADA University in Baku rejects the claim.
Ismailzade exclusively told TRT World “This war is full of fake information. Pashinian has no shame. He keeps spreading fake information about Syrian fighters and Turkish planes and 3 weeks have passed without a single photo or video.”
“It creates negative information about Azerbaijan and complicates the peace process.” Ismailzade adds.
Ganja: the city under fire
TRT World asked Ismailzade what are the common disinformation that are complicating the understanding of the conflict. Ismailzade says “Azerbaijani army is very professional, organized and motivated. They fight without any foreign help and they are eager to liberate the occupied territories. The Armenian defense line turned out to be very weak and Azerbaijani army broke it very fast. Armenian myth is gone”.
“It is clear that Azerbaijani side is using Turkish drones and Israeli technology and this gives them clear superiority. Armenian army has no drones and lost many tanks and other military equipment which Azerbaijani side estimated at $4.6 billion. All Armenia does so far is to launch SCUD missiles to Ganja and other towns of Azerbaijan far from the conflict area and killing kids there”.
The Ganja attack that took place earlier this month was condemned by the United Nations.
Vahram Poghosyan, the spokesperson for Arayik Harutyunyan, on the other hand affirmed that Azerbaijan has military bases in Ganja in which they fire from.
The attack on Ganja, however, hit residential areas many kilometres away from the conflict zone. As Ismailzade noted, amongst those killed were children. Children as young as three also became orphaned when the strikes managed to kill all family members of the same house.
Luke Coffey, the Director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, released a report in light of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to also combat disinformation associated with the fighting. Coffey’s main takeaways was the fact there is no meaningful religious dimension regardless of the fact Armenia is majority Christian and Azerbaijan is majority Muslim, and that the fighting is taking place in Azerbaijan, not Armenia.
In the era of the global rise of “fake news”, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not managed to escape the effects of it. Misleading information related to the fighting continues to unfold on a daily basis and adds complications to the understanding of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.