Human rights/war crimes Information Warfare Security/maritime security

Journalists and villagers under attack by Armenian forces, as truce violations continue

By | Rachel Brooks

October 19, 2020

There is no clear end in sight for the cycle of ceasefire mitigation and then violation. This was best illustrated by the events in Tartar’s Alasgarli village on October 19, in which fresh attacks by Armenian forces resulted in the injury of village-dweller Niyaz Salimov. He was injured in shell fire, as the shell hit the courtyard pavement of his house, citing Azer News

The Azerbaijani television broadcast journalist Anar Shushali was injured and hospitalized on October 19, following a direct engagement of his film crew by Armenian troops. Armenian troops fired on the film crew which reports for Azerbaijan’s local AzTV. 

On the same day, AzerNews reports that a cotton plant was shelled. 

These attacks have been confirmed by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. 

“The Armenian armed forces are shelling the settlements of #Tartar and #Aghdam regions,” the Ministry of Defense announced via Twitter on October 19 at 7:58 am. 

As deadly clashes continue, and ceasefires have been violated repeatedly by Armenian forces, the U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo will invite both Azerbaijan and Armenia’s foreign ministers to mitigation talks. This was reported by Politico on October 19. The State Department’s move to lead discussions in the South Caucasus comes just days before the results of the U.S. presidential election are determined. Each of the foreign ministers will meet Pompeo on Friday. As of October 19, it was not clear if the U.S. State Department would mediate a trilateral session with the foreign ministers, or if they would each have a private session. The meeting is critical, as the U.S. now actively discusses the resurgence of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The Azerbaijani U.S. Ambassador noted that there was a possibility the two foreign ministers may face each other in the Pompeo sessions. He expressed, on behalf of his country, hopes for a “substantive conversation.” 

Meanwhile, aggressions toward reporters and civilians appear to continue without pause. The incidents of October 19 are not the first time in the conflict that Azerbaijani journalists have been directly engaged by the Armenian armed forces. Daily Sabah reported five days before the incident with Shushali’s team that Armenian forces fired upon Azerbaijani correspondents in the Tartar region. During this incident, the AzTV war correspondent Elnur Tofig and his team were recording footage of the shelling of a school in Duverli. The attack commenced as they recorded footage of the school shelling. 

Tofig told Daily Sabah that he and his team promptly exited the school structure. They were proceeding to the vehicle they had approached the scene when an explosion occurred. The driver and a civilian were injured in the explosion. Tofig stated then that he and his team proceeded with the wounded to downtown Tartar. The team was in good spirits and stated they would resume their coverage of attacks against civilians. 

As attacks against journalists in the area continue to increase, AzTV has launched a  Justice for Journalists campaign. The campaign was launched on October 14, prompted by the particular incident in which Armenian forces opened fire on news crews in Tartar, and injured the news crew’s driver, who was identified by AzTV as Namig Gambarov. In addition to Gambarov’s injuries, the news vehicle was “severely damaged.” 

Armenian forces have been known to harass AzTV correspondents even outside of Azerbaijan. In December 2019, AzTV reported that one of its correspondents to Russia was attacked while covering the dismantling of the memorial plaque to the Armenian fascist leader Garegin Nzhdeh. The plaque was initially located in Armavir, Krasnodar, Russia. Armenians attacked the employees of AzTV as they covered this issue, angered that they were making reportage of the plaque’s removal, and broke their news camera in the process. Local Armenians were outraged with AzTV because AzTV’s reportage of the historical context of Nzhdeh as a fascist leader of the Armenian legion of national socialists helped to lead to its dismantling. The AzTV crew then returned to report the progress of the plaque’s dismantling, which the deputy of Armavir Duma Alexey Vinogradov elected to paint over. Nzhde was reportedly a Nazi collaborator, who died in Vladimir prison where he was interned for Nazi co-conspiracy. This fact was the reason why the city of Armavir elected to remove the plaque.