Social Media in Armenia-Azerbaijan communication, cooperation and conflict transformation


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Istanbul, Turkey 14 August 2011

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Social Media in Armenia-Azerbaijan communication, cooperation and conflict transformation

  1. 1. <ul><li>SOCIAL MEDIA IN CROSS BORDER ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN COMMUNICATION, COOPERATION, CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION AND GRASS ROOTS ACTIVISM </li></ul><ul><li>ISTANBUL, TURKEY </li></ul><ul><li>Onnik Krikorian Caucasus Regional Editor, Global Voices [email_address] [email_address] </li></ul>
  2. 2. Nagorno Karabakh <ul><li>1994 ceasefire </li></ul><ul><li>Approx 25,000 dead </li></ul><ul><li>Approx 1 million refugees and IDPs </li></ul><ul><li>14-16 percent of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian and Nagorno Karabakh forces </li></ul><ul><li>Border skirmishes and clashes, increase in sniper incidents </li></ul><ul><li>Peace deal still elusive </li></ul><ul><li>Territorial integrity vs. Right to self-determination </li></ul><ul><li>Threat of new war </li></ul>
  3. 3. Media & Civil Society <ul><li>Media practices self-censorship </li></ul><ul><li>Subjective and/or selective reporting, misinformation and propaganda </li></ul><ul><li>Nationalist narratives and terminology over objectivity and neutrality </li></ul><ul><li>Rumor and speculation becomes accepted as 'fact' </li></ul><ul><li>Large part of civil society uninterested, impotent, restricted or closed </li></ul><ul><li>Political forces manipulate conflict for domestic political gain </li></ul><ul><li>Communication and/or contact with the 'enemy' discouraged </li></ul>
  4. 4. Media Perpetuating Conflict? <ul><li>[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. </li></ul><ul><li>Armenian and Azerbaijani International News Coverage – Empirical Findings and Recommendations for Improvement , Caucasus Resource Research Centers (CRRC) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Media Perpetuating Conflict? <ul><li>[...] 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. </li></ul><ul><li>Armenian and Azerbaijani International News Coverage – Empirical Findings and Recommendations for Improvement , Caucasus Resource Research Centers (CRRC) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Attitudes in Armenia
  7. 7. Attitudes in Azerbaijan
  8. 8. Attitudes in Georgia
  9. 9. Another Alternative? <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Ivan Sigal, Global Voices Executive Director, Digital media in conflict-prone societies, Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Social Media Crossing Borders <ul><li>Facebook allowed insight into lives, interests and concerns across ceasefire line </li></ul><ul><li>Additional connections made with like-minded Armenians and Azerbaijanis </li></ul><ul><li>Global Voices covered stories ignored by Armenian and Azerbaijani media </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitated translation of stories from Armenian and Azerbaijani </li></ul><ul><li>Dissemination of alternative narratives ignored by Armenian and Azerbaijani media </li></ul><ul><li>NGOs requesting contacts for their own cross-border projects </li></ul><ul><li>Showed that Armenian-Azerbaijani communication and cooperation was possible </li></ul><ul><li>Additional tools such as Skype, Twitter etc. facilitate daily communication </li></ul>
  11. 11. Social Media Crossing Borders
  12. 13. Catalysts <ul><li>BarCamp Caucasus </li></ul><ul><li>Arrest, detention and eventual imprisonment of Azeri video blogging youth activists </li></ul><ul><li>Increased use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Faster connection speeds making audio/video communication possible </li></ul><ul><li>Coverage on Global Voices Online </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery of existing, but unknown and smaller, Armenian-Azerbaijani networks </li></ul>
  13. 14. Twitter Communication
  14. 15. Conflict Sensitive Journalism <ul><li>Peace Journalism (also called conflict solution journalism, conflict sensitive journalism, constructive conflict coverage, and reporting the world) has been developed from research that indicates that all too often news about conflict has a value bias toward violence . It also includes practical methods for correcting this bias by producing journalism in both the mainstream and alternative media; and working with journalists, media professionals, audiences and organisations in conflict. The concept was proposed by Johan Galtung. </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia, Peace Journalism </li></ul>
  15. 17. Alternative Narratives <ul><li>Nowhere in the world can you find two groups of people closer to each other. That is why we often have these stupid disputes between Armenians and Azeris. &quot;This house is Armenian&quot; or &quot;this house is Azeri.&quot; Or &quot;this music is Armenian or Azeri.&quot; This is exactly because the two have so much in common. [...] I normally say, and people don't like this, that Armenians are just Christian Azeris and Azeris are just Muslim Armenians . That is how much they are alike. </li></ul><ul><li>Seymur Baycan , Re-arming the Caucasus, Al Jazeera English </li></ul>
  16. 18. Alternative Narratives Re-arming the Caucasus, Al Jazeera English
  17. 19. Alternative Narratives Re-arming the Caucasus, Al Jazeera English
  18. 20. Alternative Narratives <ul><li>We hear far too little of what I call this “third narrative” of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, a narrative of peace. It spins the idea that the two peoples are capable of getting along fine, have lived together in the past and, if politicians are able to overcome differences on the Karabakh conflict, can live together in the future. International mediators are too timid to speak this narrative or feel that it is not their business. The media in both countries suppresses it. </li></ul><ul><li>Thomas de Waal, senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment and author of Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War </li></ul>
  19. 21. Caucasus Conflict Voices
  20. 22. Caucasus Conflict Voices
  21. 23. Alternative Narratives
  22. 24. Alternative Narratives
  23. 25. But... <ul><li>Internet penetration low and expensive in relative terms </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional media reaches a far wider audience </li></ul><ul><li>Need to diversify access to online information </li></ul><ul><li>Privacy and security concerns with social networking sites </li></ul><ul><li>Internal security service monitoring of online activism </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of experience with new and social media in donor and local organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Cyber Utopianism </li></ul>
  24. 26. Identifying Activist Networks <ul><li>The reason why the KGB wants you to join Facebook is because it allows them to learn more about you from afar. 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. </li></ul><ul><li>Evgeny Morozov , author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom </li></ul>
  25. 27. Identifying Activist Networks
  26. 28. Imaginary Cosmopolitanism
  27. 29. Imaginary Cosmopolitanism <ul><li>I study the ways new media shapes people's perceptions of the world. It's my fond hope that social networks such as Facebook will help users broaden their perspectives by listening to a different set of people than they encounter in their daily life. But I fear services such as Facebook may be turning us into imaginary cosmopolitans. </li></ul><ul><li>[...] </li></ul><ul><li>Is Facebook a space for cross-cultural interaction? For fomenting reactionary hatred? Or is it primarily a space for online interaction with our local, offline friends? </li></ul><ul><li>Ethan Zuckerman, Global Voices co-founder, Does Facebook unite us or divide us? </li></ul>
  28. 30. Cyber Realism <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Bart Woord, International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) Secretary General </li></ul>
  29. 31. Need for a holistic approach <ul><li>There's a strong interest in developing an online civic space where there can be level-headed discussion of controversial topics across communities. [...] But like most other places the existing NGO sector seems poorly prepared to make the most of the digital opportunities [...] </li></ul><ul><li>Dan McQuillan , Twitter activism in Tbilisi </li></ul>
  30. 32. Need for a holistic approach <ul><li>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 . </li></ul><ul><li>Micael Bogar , Projects Manager at the American University's Center for Social Media </li></ul>
  31. 33. Need for a holistic approach Also use: - Social Networks - Blogs - Twitter...
  32. 34. Need for a holistic approach <ul><li>Combine offline and online approaches when appropiate </li></ul><ul><li>Cooperate with other organizations and individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Constantly assess which tools work best and adopt new tools when appropiate </li></ul><ul><li>Don't underestimate the importance of widely more available tools such as mobile </li></ul><ul><li>Take online privacy and security seriously, especially with online networks </li></ul>
  33. 35. Questions & Discussion <ul><li>[…] the internet is not magic; it is a tool. Anyone who wants to use it to bring nations closer together has to show initiative, and be ready to travel physically as well as virtually. As with the telegraph before it—also hailed as a tool of peace—the internet does nothing on its own. </li></ul><ul><li>The Economist , A cyber-house divided </li></ul>
  34. 36. Links <ul><li>Global Voices Online </li></ul><ul><li>Global Voices Advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>Rising Voices </li></ul><ul><li>Technology for Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Caucasus Conflict Voices </li></ul>