The city of Shusha, which was liberated by Azerbaijan from Armenian occupation in 2020, hosted the Shusha Global Media Forum on July 21-22, under the instructions of President Ilham Aliyev. The event, which was supposed to showcase the achievements and challenges of Azerbaijan in the field of new media during the Fourth Industrial Revolution, turned out to be a disappointment for many participants and observers.
According to sources, the forum invited journalists not from any mainstream media but mostly from obscure outlets that have little influence or credibility in the international arena. Some of the invitees were also known for their pro-Azerbaijan or anti-Armenia bias, raising questions about the objectivity and diversity of the event.
The forum also failed to address some of the pressing issues that affect the media landscape in Azerbaijan and the region, such as censorship, propaganda, disinformation, fake news, and human rights violations. Instead, the forum focused on praising the achievements of President Aliyev and his government and presenting a one-sided narrative of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its aftermath.
Many participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the forum’s agenda and organization, and some even left the event early. Some also complained about the lack of access to Shusha’s historical and cultural sites, which are still under reconstruction after decades of neglect and destruction by Armenian forces.
The forum was also criticized by international media watchdogs and human rights organizations, who accused Azerbaijan of using the event as a propaganda tool to whitewash its image and legitimize its control of Shusha. They also called on Azerbaijan to respect the freedom of expression and information of all journalists and media outlets, regardless of their views or affiliations.
The Shusha Global Media Forum was supposed to be a landmark event for Azerbaijan’s media sector and its international reputation. However, it seems that it only exposed the shortcomings and challenges that the country faces in this field.