40th Session of Information Committee of UN GA condemns disinformation campaigns against Azerbaijan

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Spokesperson of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hikmat Hajiyev has condemned disinformation campaigns conducted against Azerbaijan as he addressed the 40th Session of the Information Committee of the UN Genral Assembly in New York.

“We support the United Nations strategic communication policy at the national level. Regular TV and radio programs are organized to raise awareness of society about UN’s core missions and especially Sustainable Development Goals in the context of national action program. On the eve of the anniversary of Azerbaijan’s accession to the UN on March 2, in cooperation with the public and private media outlets and UN Office in Baku we arrange special sessions and programs about UN-Azerbaijan cooperation and contribution of specialized UN institutions to capacity building projects in Azerbaijan. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in our public and digital diplomacy strategy we attach special importance to UN-Azerbaijan cooperation and via official social media channels of MFA we share/retweet messages of UN, Secretary General and synchronize our # with those of UN, especially with regard to SDGs,” Hikmat Hajiyev said in his speech.

“We also support multilingualism, but multilingualism is also about multiculturalism. Therefore, we suggest putting more emphasis of the issues of multiculturalism in future activities of UN Department of Public Information along with the Dialogue of Civilizations. In 2016 Azerbaijan successfully hosted the 7th Global Forum of UN Alliance of Civilizations. We appreciate the cooperation and support of UN DPI for providing platform for live broadcast of this event via UN TV. Also, live twitter support was extremely useful to communicate message of Baku Global Forum to wider auditoriums. We support and express our readiness for such cooperation in the future as well.”

“However, as the universal organization, expectations from the United Nations on the issues of maintenance of international peace and security are also high. As we are aware, effectiveness of every communication strategy is directly dependent on our deliveries. For instance, failure to implement demands of four UN Security Council resolutions on immediate, unconditional and full withdrawal of occupying troops from the seized lands of Azerbaijan raises fair questions and legitimate concerns of wider public, especially IDP and refugee community in Azerbaijan. So that, to raise further effectiveness of UN Strategic communication more emphasis should also be put on the implementation of UN resolutions and policies in the particular regions,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson added.

“Propaganda, “fake news’ and the dissemination of disinformation through traditional and online media, as well as the social network platforms seriously undermine freedom of expression. In the context of armed conflicts, as integral components of propaganda, “ideological aggression”, “information war” constitutes serious threats to international peace and security.”

“In his book “Forging the war,” Mark Thompson correctly wrote that “verbal violence produced physical violence” and that the war initially started in media. Nowadays, this space is not only limited with the media, but encompasses endless, unregulated and unguided social networks as well.

As we all know well, propaganda is not only a problem of contemporary world and is not either an alien topic to the agenda of the United Nations. The UN General Assembly, in one of its earlier resolutions, adopted on November 3, 1947 under the title “Measures to be taken against propaganda” gave a rather clear definition to war propaganda by saying that it “condemns all forms of propaganda, in whatsoever country conducted, which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” (URL: http://www.un-documents.net/a2r110. htm),” Hikmat Hajiyev said.

“Existence of armed conflicts provides favorable ground for propaganda and media manipulations. I regret to stress that since the late 80s and early years of its independence Azerbaijan encountered with the mass wave of orchestrated and planned “information aggression” and “information war”, which accompanied the physical war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan. With the sole purpose of disguising its responsibility for illegal use of force and occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani people from the seized lands, Armenia resorted to 4D propaganda – “Deceive, Disform, Distort and Disorient” the international community. In the form of “hybrid war” Armenia’s policy of propaganda and disinformation supported by Armenian lobby groups still continues against Azerbaijan in order to maintain status-quo of occupation and undermine peaceful settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict on the basis of relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

It is also matter of serious concern that Armenia with a view of propagating the illegal regime established in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan tries to misuse international media platforms under various pretexts. We do respect the professional interest of international media outlets to reach out the occupied territories of Azerbaijan as a war zone. But such professional interest should not come at the expense of violating foreign media accreditation rules, border and passport control regime of Azerbaijan. Balanced, fair and objective coverage of realities of armed conflicts, respecting the accreditation rules of respective countries is extremely important to avoid elements of propaganda and disinformation and biased reporting,” spokesperson Hajiyev said.

“The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not the only source of propaganda and disinformation against Azerbaijan. For example, in 2015, Azerbaijan in the spirit of Olympic Movement and UN’s policy of Sport for peace and development successfully hosted the First European Games. However, our goodwill intention to contribute to the Olympic spirit at the continental level has faced with the massive and orchestrated smear campaign and disinformation, at some point reaching to the level of physiological warfare. We have witnessed continuation of same tendency in fall 2017 under the fake news campaign called “laundromat”. It is regrettable that some influential media outlets without providing the possibility for right of response and checking facts engaged in this campaign against my country.

“We should admit that international policy on propaganda is hampered by the lack of clear definitions of essential terms, which does not allow for a more consistent application on the international and national levels.”

“In our national experience, we refuse being engaged in useless counter-propaganda rhetoric. On the contrary, we prefer the way of explaining and promoting objective and true facts, if necessary, to identify and correct disinformation. We do also consider that supporting and investing in media pluralism and media literacy, are essential to prevent and minimize the dangers of propaganda.

Azerbaijan has almost 100 per cent literacy level. Well informed society is also an extremely useful remedy against negative repercussions of propaganda.

Media self-regulation, where it is effective, remains also an important instrument in addressing propaganda for war, hatred and discrimination. There are specific tools that already exist in the area of media regulation for dealing with biased and misleading information. These include rules on balance and accuracy in broadcasting; prominence of public service broadcasting with a special mission to include all viewpoints; a clear distinction between fact and opinion in journalism; transparency of media ownership, etc. “

“Along with the measures at the national level, Azerbaijan actively supports common efforts against propaganda and disinformation within the regional institutions, particularly within the OSCE. But there is more need for universal approach to the problem as its magnitude and complexity grows by application of different methods and technologies by state and non-state actors,” Hikmat Hajiyev concluded.