Social Media in Armenia & Azerbaijan Peacebuilding
Works-in-Progress Series: SOCIAL MEDIA IN ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN NEW TOOLS FOR PEACEBUILDING AND GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM? Onnik Krikorian Caucasus Regional Editor, Global Voices http://www.globalvoicesonline.org [email_address] [email_address]
What is Global Voices? Global Voices is a community of more than 300 bloggers and translators around the world who work together to bring readers reports from blogs and citizen media everywhere, with an emphasis on voices that are not ordinarily heard in the mainstream media. Global Voices is translated into more than 15 languages by volunteer translators, who have formed the Lingua project. Additionally, Global Voices has an Advocacy website and network to help people speak out online in places where their voices are censored. We also have an outreach project called Rising Voices to help marginalized communities use citizen media to be heard.
Global Voices Impact Four websites most consistently account for links between countries: YouTube , Wikipedia , the BBC and, a distant fourth, Global Voices Online . The last of these, launched at Harvard University in 2005 […] works to create links between bloggers in different countries, and to find what it calls “bridge bloggers” […] The Economist, 2 September 2010 Working relationships with BBC, Reuters, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, La Stampa and many others. Frequently quoted by CNN, BBC, New York Times, The Economist etc.
Perpetuating Conflict [A] negative context [is set] in the public consciousness, which hinders dialogue and mutual understanding […] Without more accurate and unbiased information […] free of negative rhetoric and stereotypes, Armenians and Azerbaijanis will continue to see themselves as enemies without any common ground. Report on media in Armenia and Azerbaijan , Caucasus Resource Research Centers
Perpetuating conflict [...] people are often inclined to consider their existing attitudes and beliefs to be true and filter the news through this lens . Thus, they accept messages in order to maintain their original perceptions. […] bias in the local media [...] serves as a means to fuel and perpetuate hatred . This is a role the media has and continues to play with regards to the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. Report on media in Armenia and Azerbaijan , Caucasus Resource Research Centers
Another alternative? Throughout history, war has affected media, with conflict often creating an information void. In the 21st century, media has begun to affect war more than ever before. Digital media technologies [...] have increased communication and information dissemination in conflict settings [...]. These new tools can be used to foment violence or to foster peace , and it is possible to build communication systems that encourage dialogue and nonviolent political solutions. Ivan Sigal, Global Voices Executive Director, Digital media in conflict-prone societies, Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
Cyber Utopian or Skeptic? The reason why the KGB wants you to join Facebook is because it allows them to learn more about you from afar,” he said. “It allows them to identify certain social graphs and social connections between activists. Many of these relationships are now self-disclosed by activists by joining various groups. Evgeny Morozov , author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
Cyber Realism <ul><li>Internet penetration remails low in Armenia and Azerbaijan
Governments becoming more aware of the use by activists of social media
Lack of support for grassroots or individual initiatives
Civil society is largely donor-driven and often fails to innovate
The right tools for the right tasks </li></ul>
Holistic approach I think you can’t do it just with social media tools, but as we’ve seen over the past 15 years, you definitely can’t do it by meeting in Tbilisi for a weekend every summer. It becomes an “entertainment” and I’ve had experience with those conferences in Georgia where it’s just one big coffee break and a waste of money. However, I think that both approaches combined could propel things along . Micael Bogar , Projects Manager at the American University's Center for Social Media
Words of caution New media tools will certainly help in getting people better acquainted with each other, but at the same time can also be used to reaffirm existing biases. Just search on the Internet for Armenian and Azerbaijani web sites and you can find a lot of trash and very harmful discourse from nationalist websites. I’m mildly optimistic, but at the same time think we should be very cautious about what we find on the Internet as well. Bart Woord , International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) Secretary General
Shameless plugs Global Voices Online http://www.globalvoicesonline.org Global Voices Caucasus Conflict Voices http://globalvoicesonline.org/specialcoverage/caucasus-conflict-voices/ Global Voices Advocacy http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/ Rising Voices http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/ Caucasus Conflict Voices http://www.oneworld.am/diversity/