Spokesman of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Hikmat Hajiyev addressed the 40th Session of the Information Committee of the UN GA held in New York on May 1-2.
Hajiyev firstly voiced appreciation for the hard of work of UN Department of Public Information for preparing the reports on the implementation of UN strategic communication.
“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,” he said.
He reminded that on the eve of the anniversary of Azerbaijan’s accession to the UN on March 2, special sessions and programs about UN-Azerbaijan cooperation and contribution of specialized UN institutions to capacity building projects in Azerbaijan were arranged in cooperation with the public and private media outlets and UN Office.
“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,” he said.
Hajiyev stressed that the country appreciates the cooperation and support of UN DPI for providing platform for live broadcast of the event via UN TV.
“Also, live Twitter support was extremely useful to communicate message of Baku Global Forum to wider audiences. We support and express our readiness for such cooperation in the future as well,” he said.
“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,” he said.
According to him, 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, the ideological aggression and information war constitute serious threats to international peace and security, he said.
“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,” Hajiyev said.
“As we all know well, propaganda is not only problem of contemporary world and it is also not 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”,” he said.
Hajiyev further stressed that 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 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,” he said.
The spokesperson said that 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,” he said.
He said that 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.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not the only source of propaganda and disinformation against Azerbaijan, Hajiyev said.
“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 faced a massive and orchestrated smear campaign and disinformation, at some point reaching the level of psychological 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 are engaged in this campaign against my country,” he said.
Hajiyev went on to say that international policy on propaganda is hampered by the lack of clear definitions of essential terms, which does not allow 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,” he said.
He further said that Azerbaijan has almost 100 percent literacy level, adding that the 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.” he said.
He noted that along with the measures at the national level, Azerbaijan actively supports common efforts against propaganda and disinformation within the regional institutions, particularly 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,” he concluded.
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