"Yusin and I have argued many times over the Karabakh issue"
    Giorgi Saralidze on bias in Russian media

    INTERVIEWS  16 September 2022 - 20:28

    Huseyn Safarov

    Another attempt to stir up the Russian-Azerbaijani allied relations was recently made on the air of Dmitry Kulikov's "Who's Against?" talk show on Rossiya 1 TV channel.

    Commenting on the new tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the international observer of Kommersant Maxim Yusin presented it as another front of pressure on Russia in connection with the Ukrainian crisis, initiated by Azerbaijan at the instigation of the West. At the same time, the Russian political analyst did not say a word about the real reason for the escalation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, namely the large-scale provocations of the Armenian Armed Forces.

    Yusin's provocative fabrications were, however, rather quickly foiled by another Russian expert, TV and radio host Giorgi Saralidze, who was also a guest on the TV programme.

    According to Saralidze, it is impossible to accuse only one side and the events must be thoroughly investigated.

    One way or the other discrediting Azerbaijan on Russian television is not new and has a long track record. To find out what was the reason for the biased position of some Russian media outlets towards Baku, Caliber.Az addressed Giorgi Saralidze himself.

    Our interviewee first of all mentioned that Maxim Yusin is a very solid professional.

    "I have known M. Yusin for a long time and he is a very good journalist. The fact is that the statement he made on the air of the mentioned TV programme is his position. He and I have had many arguments on the Karabakh issue, both within the framework of some talk shows and off the air. This was the case both before and after the 44-day war in 2020.

    Yusin's position, as I understand it, has a lot to do with some of his personal preferences, which in my opinion, is not quite right for a journalist. But this is his position and he is sticking to it. In fact, Yusin has the right to express his opinion, just as I have the right to express mine," Saralidze believes.

    As for the not always objective presentation of events in the South Caucasus in the Russian media, the journalist believes that this is due to the fact that there are very few experts on the South Caucasus in the Russian media sphere.

    "There are not many people in the Russian media who have real knowledge of history and geography and an understanding of the current realities. At the same time, there are a lot of people who are biased. In fairness, it should be admitted that there are biased experts on both sides. However, if you closely follow what is happening in the Russian media, you will notice that there are more pro-Armenian sentiments.

    It is known that the presentation of information requires an employee of the press to be absolutely detached from the topic, and if we are talking about the state media of the Russian Federation, then these laws of journalism are strictly observed there. I know this firsthand, with absolute certainty. If a state outlet presents information about an event, it covers the opinion of both sides. But there are also authors' programmes which are mostly left to themselves. And here much depends on the choice of experts, invited guests. This is the level where a balance is needed. I would like to note that in this respect there was earlier a significant overbalance, now the situation is changing," the expert stressed.

    Meanwhile, Saralidze emphasized that as a man of South Caucasus he understands the emotionality of Azerbaijanis when they hear negative statements about their homeland.

    "It is important to understand that there are serious anti-Turkish sentiments in the Russian society, which are mostly based on the Russian mentality or, say, historical memory. These are the numerous Russian-Turkish wars that we all know about, all sorts of confrontations on religious grounds, etc. In other words, Russia is closer to Christians than to Muslims. This factor is not particularly emphasised but is nevertheless present. And it seems to me that just this association of Azerbaijan with Türkiye also yields some results and a certain direction. Why do those who want to pit Russia against Azerbaijan always equate Azerbaijan and Türkiye? Because many people consider Azerbaijan and Türkiye as one state. I often attend political discussions and always argue about it, but not only specialists but also ordinary people are susceptible to such a perception. And the participants of all talk shows, in order to please the audience, take one side or the other," the TV and radio host noted.

    Speaking about the CSTO's decision on Armenia's appeal, Saralidze stressed that it is an international organisation, "although it is clear that Russia plays the leading role".

    "I suspect, or rather, even know that after the Second Karabakh War the attitude of the CSTO member states to the Karabakh issue became different. Undoubtedly, Russia has the leading role in the organisation, but when making important decisions, it also takes into account the reactions of other countries in the bloc. In order to make such a serious decision as military intervention, the organisation must assess the situation, and understand what happened. Information from the ground from the parties is contradictory and no one will rely on one party's assertions. This is why a task force of the CSTO Joint Staff has been organised and is now in Armenia to assess the situation. Depending on that, decisions will be made. However, based on my experience in covering such events, I am confident that no harsh decisions will be taken by the organisation," Saralidze summed up.


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