A historic step in the South Caucasus: Azerbaijani and Armenian journalists agree on “Language of Peace”
The “Workshop on Peace and the Role of Media in the South Caucasus”, organized by the Global Journalism Council (GJC), an international press professional organization with representatives in 62 countries, on 28-29 April 2023 in Tbilisi, Georgia, brought journalists from Azerbaijan and Armenia together at the same table for the first time after 35 years of tension and war.
At the workshop, which was attended by journalists from Turkey and Georgia, the view that journalists have a historic duty for lasting and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus and that “hate speech” in the media must first be eliminated was included in the joint statement, which was decided to be published with the signatures of all participants.
The Georgian capital Tbilisi hosted the “Workshop on Peace and the Role of Media in the South Caucasus” on the initiative of the Global Journalism Council (GJC). At the workshop, delegations of journalists from Azerbaijan and Armenia met around the same table for the first time, while their colleagues from Turkey and Georgia took part as observers in this vital meeting for the South Caucasus.
“THE LANGUAGE OF PEACE IS NEEDED”
GJC President Mehmet Ali Dim, who made the opening speech of the workshop, said:
“The proposal for the workshop first came from Azerbaijan. We worked on this issue for 3-4 months. Stating that the painful events experienced in the region for more than 35 years, especially after the 2nd Karabakh War in 2020, the determination of the peoples of the region for lasting peace has increased, he said: “Wars start with a news and end with a news. Today, beyond a war, we have met here to talk about what we journalists can do to end a long-standing and very painful conflict. Peoples urgently need the media’s language of peace. I would like to thank our colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia for their constructive behavior and I believe that at the end of this workshop we will send a message of hope to the region and the world at a time when the world is experiencing great tensions. The most important journalists from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are here. Our common goal is to contribute to the establishment of lasting peace in the South Caucasus. If a journalist wants, he can change the world.”
OUR COMMON WISH IS PEACE
The workshop was moderated by experienced diplomacy and war journalist Ardan Zentürk. “It is a clear fact that the journalists gathered here do not have political goals. On the contrary, we are gathered here as professionals who question politicians and raise challenging questions against their attitudes and views that take peace off the agenda. We believe that this is a long journey and that ingrained ideas can only change with patience.” A total of 20 journalists from 4 countries took the floor one by one without any time limit and expressed their opinions. Speaking first at the workshop with simultaneous interpretation in Turkish, Russian and English, veteran Turkish journalist Yavuz Donat said:
“I guess that everyone around this table knows Mevlana well. A very famous quote of his seems to have been said just for this meeting. Mevlana says, ‘yesterday is yesterday, yesterday and all the words of yesterday are gone, my dear, now we need to say something new’. Today we have to work with this in mind, if we get stuck in the bad memories of yesterday, our tomorrow will be jeopardized once again. However, our duty is to learn from the bitter experiences of the past and make tomorrow beautiful for our children.”
“PROUD TO BE IN TBILISI”
GJC Tbilisi Representative Avtandil Otinashvili stated that they are proud that this important workshop will be held in the capital of Georgia and said: “When the proposal came to us, we accepted it with great honor, because there could not be a more suitable place than Tbilisi for the first meeting of our Armenian and Azerbaijani friends in the South Caucasus. As the Georgian nation, we are determined to do our best today and tomorrow, as we did yesterday, for our two neighbors to solve their problems and achieve lasting peace.”
RECONCILIATION IN THE LANGUAGE OF PEACE
It was noteworthy that Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists who spoke at the workshop agreed that the media has a vital role to play for a “language of peace” and a lasting and sustainable peace.
Speaking on behalf of the Armenian delegation, Emmanuil Mkrtchyan, Director General of Arminfo News Agency, stated that there are no winners in wars and said: “The peoples in the South Caucasus are not in favor of war. Now the desire to live in peace comes to the fore. Peace does not happen only when the people want it. Public pressure is also very important. We are ready to do our part in this regard. We have to channel the power of the media for peace.”
Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Yegane Hajiyeva, Deputy President of the Azerbaijan Press Council and Elshad Eyvazlı, Azerbaijan Representative of GJC, stated that peace is needed more than ever. Hajiyeva said, “Mothers should not cry, children should not be fatherless. It is never difficult to establish peace if everyone does their part. This is the first time we have met at the same table with our Armenian colleagues. We would like to thank the Global Journalism Council for this. This is a historic step and we believe it will continue.”
The journalists agreed to establish joint mechanisms to counter the maneuvers of global powers through media and social media in the era of “hybrid wars” and fake news, which pose a great threat to peace.
It was also agreed that the nations of the region should get to know each other’s cultural structures closely and supportive publications on joint economic projects and investments that will form the basis of peace.
9 POINT CONSENSUS TEXT
As a result of long negotiations, with the joint decision and approval of the delegations of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and with the support of journalists from Turkey and Georgia, it was decided that the 9 point consensus text, which was discussed article by article after the workshop, would be announced to the world public by the Global Journalism Council.
The Workshop on Peace and the Role of Media in the South Caucasus was held in Tbilisi on 29 April 2023 with the participation of journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey (country names are in English alphabetical order).
Organized under the leadership of the Global Journalism Council (GJC), Turkey’s leading international media non-governmental organization based in Ankara, Turkey, the participants exchanged broad views on the role of the media in promoting lasting peace and mutual understanding in the South Caucasus region.
The fact that the workshop was the first time that journalists from Armenia and Azerbaijan met for the first time and created an environment for broad-based discussion was noted by the participants. The support provided by Georgian and Turkish journalists to the Workshop, which strengthened communication and envisaged working towards common goals, is highly appreciated.
- The workshop is important in that it raises hopes that regional initiatives can bring lasting peace at a time when the global system has reached a bottleneck due to tensions in different strategic areas.
- The Parties agreed on the need to achieve lasting and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus at a time when the global system is deeply shaken by conflicts in different strategic areas.
- The Parties are opposed to all extremist movements and all ideas and views that support violence, conflict and terrorism and adopt the principle of joint struggle against all attempts, efforts, plans and provocations in this direction.
- The Parties reaffirm their commitment to the principle that “CAUCASUS belongs to the Caucasians and the solution of the problems lies in the common search for solutions by the peoples of the Caucasus”.
- In line with this commitment, the parties agreed to set the principles of broadcasting in the regional press/broadcasting organizations in order to eliminate all kinds of hate language, to stop the propaganda of vengeful views and to adopt the principle of peaceful coexistence for future generations.
- In line with this consensus, no derogatory, marginalizing and violence-encouraging language can be used about any nation. The Parties underline their belief that the nations of the South Caucasus, which have lived together for centuries, will continue to live together peacefully in the future on the basis of mutual respect.
- At the same time, the Parties believe that the accumulated problems in the South Caucasus can be solved through closer acquaintance of the peoples with each other. Therefore, they believe that the work of media outlets in promoting the understanding of national cultures by other publics is of vital importance.
- The Parties agree that one of the greatest threats to peace in the region is fake news. They believe that the fight against disinformation is essential. They strongly wish that a verification mechanism in this regard be established as soon as possible, with Georgian colleagues in particular taking part in this process.
- The Parties are convinced that warm and peaceful cooperation between the nations of the region is based on strong economic ties. Therefore, they agreed that all national media outlets should increase their coverage of joint economic projects, investment plans, policies to increase production and employment, environmental problems and especially tourism, and that the exchange of news on these issues should be increased.
The press corps from Armenia and Azerbaijan share this common view with their colleagues from Georgia and Turkey.
It is respectfully announced to the public.