The Karabakh conflict has seized headlines and netted global news coverage like never before, because this time around, major players have been involved directly, raising the tension to an international level.

For long, it was considered a frozen crisis, created by the fall of the Soviet Union.

The news media has its biases and parameters. Any incident, war or political development, has to be filtered through the same prism. In today’s Karabakh war, the parties involved, in addition to and behind the actual warriors, are Turkey and Russia.

Journalists have already resorted to formulaic characterizations of the actions of each faction; in the West, Turkey has to be presented in a favorable light, trying to find justifications for its actions, no matter how nefarious, because Turkey is a “trusted” NATO ally.

Conversely, Russia and its leader get a cold shoulder because in the lexicon of Western journalism, they have heir own description: authoritarian President Vladimir Putin sitting atop a decaying empire.

Since these two powers feature in the story of the Karabakh war, those biases overshadow the true reasons for the war.

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Despite these built-in biases, the situation has been changing, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey have been helping to bring about that change through their belligerence and aspirations to resurrect the Ottoman Empire.

It is not within the scope of this article to cover all or even the majority of media outlets; however, a sampling would suffice to present the general approach of the media to the Karabakh war.

The BBC’s coverage gives the impression that it is being broadcast from the headquarters of British Petroleum.

Oil interests and Prince Andrew’s shady investments in Azerbaijan were distinctly shining through the story. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, the BBC covered the war once from Stepanakert, where the journalist was hiding from Azerbaijani shelling of the civilian population. The rest of the coverage was from Azerbaijan or Tbilisi, Georgia, with a distinct pro-Azerbaijani bent.

While the BBC coverage was soaked in petroleum, it was rewarding to read Dominic Lawson’s column in the Sunday Times (October 11) with the headline “Turkey’s Game Is Lethal, as Johnson Well Knows.”

That column was significant not because it gave a fair treatment of the Armenian side, but because it reflected journalistic integrity. Most of the writers fail to do due diligence, namely to study the background of the topic they are covering; they cover up their ignorance by presenting a false sense of evenhandedness. That’s when we see “Armenians claim” while “Azerbaijanis deny.” It’s much easier to treat ignorance as a tool for faux justice. They spin the existing clichés, pretending to master the topic.

To study the background of a crisis is a prerequisite for journalists, the other attribute being to have the civic courage to stand by the truth, no matter how inconvenient.

In Lawson’s case, both criteria were met. He had unearthed historic facts all the way from the time of the great-grandfather of UK Premier Boris Johnson, Ali Kemal, who had been an interior minister in Ottoman Turkey, but was hanged for his fair treatment of the Armenians.

After covering a good deal of history, outlining Erdogan’s Ottomanist ambitions, he wrote, “The silence of the British government is shameful.” Then he concluded his essay with the following: “This raises three questions. Is Erdogan really the person to whom the British government should be increasing arms sales? How will the prime minister feel if they are used to massacre more Armenians? And what would his great-grandfather say?”

There were more nuances in the Israeli press. Many analysts and statesmen, all of them descending from the families of Holocaust survivors, were already embarrassed by their government’s refusal to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. They felt that the same government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, now added insult to injury by supplying Azerbaijan with lethal modern weapons, even right as when the war was raging. In the October 10 issue of the Jerusalem Post, we are invited to witness a Kafkaesque charade, under the headline “[Israeli] High Court Rejects Ban on Arms Sales to Azerbaijan as Lacking Evidence.”

“The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a petition to ban arms sales to Azerbaijan as lacking evidence to justify a hearing on whether they have been used for war crimes against Armenia.”

In 2018, an Israeli drone manufacturer attempted to bomb the Armenian military on behalf of Azerbaijan during a demonstration of one of its “suicide” unmanned aerial vehicles last month, according to a complaint filed with the Defense Ministry. Only through a series of lucky coincidences no casualties were reported. Instead, they merely received a slap on the wrist from the Israeli government.

But another article in Jerusalem Post vindicates the former, writing “The [Turkish] government ordered the media to report that ‘terrorists’ were working with Armenia, an invented news story that usually foreshadows a Turkish invasion, and then encouraged Azerbaijan to attack the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27.”

In its October 12 issue, the Times of Israel has published an opinion piece by Genocide scholar Prof. Israel Charny, whose headline says it all: “Would Israel sell a drone to Hitler?”

The Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva [Israel National News] on October 12 published an editorial with the headline “Brave Armenians Teach the Cowardly West a Lesson in Courage.” The article concludes by issuing a call to Western countries like Canada to suspend arms sales to Turkey, and recognize the sovereignty of Karabakh.

In Germany, the newspapers Bild and Zeit have provided scant coverage. The former interviewed Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, while the latter interviewed Azerbaijani analyst Bakhtiar Aslanov, who has stated that the Azerbaijani side does not trust Russia, yet does not wish to alienate Moscow either.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has been very vocal in criticizing Erdogan’s adventures. He was the first major political figure who revealed that Azerbaijan was the aggressor and that Turkey had brought Islamist Jihadists to fight Armenians. Despite France’s unequivocal official position, the television station France 24 continues to cover the war from Azerbaijan. Its journalist Catherine Norris-Trent tries to present balance reporting from the ruins of Barda in Azerbaijan. Norris-Trent did say, however, that the Azerbaijani government constantly monitors their movement and violates their right to cover the developments. She added that someone accompanies them and immediately intervenes whenever they want to just speak with the citizens.

However, the newspaper Le Point provides extensive coverage with five articles analyzing the history of the region. The editorial signed by Franz-Olivier Giesbert is entitled “Empathy for Armenians and Shame on Erdogan.”

The editorial in its first paragraph characterizes Erdogan as the warmonger of the Mediterranean and states that “there is too much resemblance between Adolf Hitler and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

The last article in the issue is signed by journalist Max Sivaslian and is titled “If Nagorno-Karabakh Falls, the Armenian Population Will Be Subjected to Genocide.”

Erdogan’s bullying and adventurism have helped the western media to awaken to the world disorder that the tyrant is wreaking. Indeed, antagonizing France, calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel a Nazi and threatening Greece, another NATO ally, had US State Department worried that NATO was about to split. Thanks to these actions, we see more balance in the US news media.

To begin with, that media tried to ignore the entire war situation in a cavalier manner, as if Armenian lives did not matter. In general, the US news media has an endemic malady regarding world affairs, instead amplifying silly issues as “breaking news.” This is a studied trend to keep the US citizens in a myopic state, unaware of the activities of the US government and other governments what is transpiring overseas.

Demonstrations in California by Armenians eventually sensitized the LA Times and CNN finally to beginning to cover the war in Karabakh. (The tone of the LA Times coverage has become a bone of contention for the Armenian community there.)

It is significant that major newspapers not only covered the story, but that their editorial boards stated their positions.

This particularly refers to the Washington Post and the New York Times. David Ignatius had more than one article in the former, while its editorial board had a clear stand when it stated on October 3, “But what seems clear is that Azerbaijan’s autocratic ruler, Ilham Aliyev, has launched an offensive to regain territories his country lost in the 1990s — and that he is doing so with the direct support of Turkey. It’s a reckless gambit that reflects both the shrinking influence of the United States under President Trump and the mounting ambitions of his sometime-friend Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

The New York Times editorial board position suggests that “the immediate goal is to put out the flames before they spread. For that to happen, a dangerous element has to be confronted. That is Turkey.”

Then, after citing the “bad blood” between Armenia and Turkey over the Ottoman era Genocide, it drops the responsibility on Russia by stating “whether Mr. Putin likes it or not, he has the greatest responsibility and the most effective levers to restrain his former empire mates and dissuade Mr. Erdogan from a dangerous adventure.”

The Fresno Bee and the Boston Globe, which are based in cities with large Armenian populations, have provided more balanced coverage, however the latter has not forgotten the overused cliché of “Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian separatist enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.”

Out of the anti-Armenian hysteria witnessed in Azerbaijan news media, one dissenting voice finally expresses the truth. Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybulla, who has either repatriated or thus far evaded a Baku jail, writes in Global Voices, from relative freedom in Istanbul, under the headline “Karabakh: Hatred and euphoria are fueling madness.”

The Azerbaijani journalist states “Ilham Aliyev has cracked down on civil society, caused so much despair to countless families of former and current political prisoners, silenced free media. This war is clearly the only card that Aliyev had left to legitimize his leadership. He will be president for life. So where does that leave us? A corrupt undemocratic president will be ruling the country, while continuing to suppress independent voices.”

The Russian news media is abuzz with news coverage and commentaries about the war. Some pro-Azerbaijani voices are balanced by the comments favorable to Armenians of Konstantin Zatulin and Vladimir Soloviev. Vladimir Posner, a Russian TV commentator who enjoyed great popularity among US television viewers during the détente after the collapse of the Soviet Union, had a nostalgic, almost lyrical comment about the people of Karabakh.

However, a war of words continues between the Armenian media and Russian media giant RT director Margarita Simonyan, who rightfully blames the spewing of anti-Russian rhetoric from the Armenian media and politicians, when Armenia is in dire need of Russian support.

The seminal statement in the Russian news media comes from Yevgeny Satanovsky, a Middle East expert, writing in the publication MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute). He states, “The old enemy is risen — the Ottoman [Sublime] Porte in a new guise. … One thing is clear. If Erdogan puts his pan-Turkic theory into practice, Russia will cease to exist. This is not about the Armenians and not about Azerbaijanis. If our leadership wants to keep the country, they need to shorten the new Sultan [by the head]. They must use whatever means they want, but they shouldn’t have a foothold in the region [Karabakh].”

As we can see, the world media has been awakened to Erdogan’s new pariah state, a threat to world stability and peace.

That awakening is perhaps also Armenia’s safeguard.

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