Western biases and censorship create issues for post-war Azerbaijani development

"Azerbaijan national dances - Yallı" by Niyaz from Baku is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By | Rachel Brooks

November 18, 2020 

Picture above, CC By 2.0 license. Azerbaijan has a rich culture and is open to diplomatic relationships in the wake of the brutal Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

Note on corrections: A previous version of this article was unclear about the status of Khankendi, or as Armenia’s call it “Stepanakert.” PBS Newshour still refers to the territory as Stepanakert, reflecting western biases. The entire Nagorno-Karabakh has been returned to Azerbaijani control.

Azerbaijan’s victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war was met with silence that echoed biases. In the wake of this crescendo of biases, the modern big tech companies continued to block Azerbaijani government officials from their platform. This continues to perpetuate a cycle of censorship the Azerbaijani nation faces. Censorship, in part supported by the Armenian lobby, in part supported by the west’s undying prejudice of Azerbaijan for its relationship to Turkey and its form of government, is a constant threat to establishing post-war diplomacy. 

“Dear friends, the activity was suspended based on the complaint of the Armenian lobby circles 

@Twitter Thank you all for your strong support in restoring my profile,” wrote Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiev. 

 “As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, President Ilham Aliyev said, “We are Strong Together”!. Our struggle continues!”

The censorship rhetoric against Azerbaijani government officials continues as the officials continue to celebrate the national victory in the Second Karabakh conflict. President Ilham Aliyev tweeted on November 17. 

On November 16, President Aliyev and First Lady Aliyev visited the scene of liberated Shusha. Aliyev then announced that construction plans on the Fuzuli-Shusha highway would commence. The rhetoric of censorship is not one for revealing that Azerbaijan will carefully reconstruct the devastated infrastructure of the territory. This is something that will benefit local Armenians, who have returned to Khankendi, known by Armenian’s as Stepanakert, as was reported by PBS Newshour.   Continued use of the Armenian name for a city in the Nagorno-Karabakh is an example of western media biases.

Biases have continued against Azerbaijan likewise because of the nation’s low press freedom ranking in previous decades. Yet, as the corner has been turned in the war, the republic may become more open to journalists, and their capacity to change the rhetoric censored by the big tech and mainstream media outlets throughout the war. During the Second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, news outlets, such as France TF1, reported with accuracy the Azerbaijani side of the conflict, despite immense harassment. Likewise, organizations traditionally leaning toward the pro-Armenian interest end of the spectrum, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, began to cover with more accuracy the bombing of civilian settlements in Azerbaijan. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published reports that exposed and acknowledged the use of Smerch missiles against civilians in the city of Barda. 

As Azerbaijan’s political tides are changing, the door is open for both diplomatic ties repair as well as the path toward domestic healing for what has been criticized as a unilateral government by the western world. 

Increased press freedom in Azerbaijan might also become a necessity and may be insisted upon by foreign governments that enter into diplomatic relationships with Azerbaijan. This will likely hinge upon the need to access the region from the more stable republic, as Armenia descends into a political wormhole. 

Even though Azerbaijan’s victory comes with promises of regional security, if the peace process is mitigated correctly, the western world continues to make errors that the Azerbaijani community deem to be fatal. 

In regards to western bias, the Azerbaijani diaspora community of the U.S., via the U.S. Azeris Network has issued letters denouncing western biases. One such incident involved comments made by the Metropolitan Museum, calling for the protection of Armenian cultural sites in the Nagorno-Karabakh. These comments, citing the U.S. Azeris Network letter, failed to also acknowledge the war crimes levied against Azerbaijan by Armenia. U.S. Azeris Network addressed the Metropolitan Museum and called out the perceived bias of what is a highly prestigious U.S. institution.

“US Azeris Network’s response to Messrs, Weiss & Hollein regarding the one-sided statement you put out that’s fatally flawed for several reasons & reveals a deep-rooted bias on your part that should have no place in a leading museum such as Metropolitan Museum,” stated the U.S. Azeris Network via Twitter, sharing a copy of the letter,” tweeted U.S. Azeris Network.