The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan
Note: In this graph, the country’s mean monthly share of global media coverage (defined as all media contained within the GDELT database) is shown. The table below gives a summary of events in Armenia according to the peak they correspond with:
In 2009, Armenia appears in the international news with a peak caused by a breakthrough in talks on the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, followed by the failure to actually normalize relations (peak 9). In 2010, Barack Obama’s speech on the Armenian Genocide failed to mention the word “genocide,” despite his election campaign promises to the Armenian American community to the contrary, leading to peak 10. Peak 11 marks domestic protests following presidential elections in 2013, but the event which captured the greatest share of the world’s attention was the 1988 Spitak earthquake (peak 3).
Note: In this graph, the country’s mean monthly share of global media coverage (defined as all media contained within the GDELT database) is shown. The table below gives a summary of events in Azerbaijan according to the peak they correspond with. A quick glance at the Azerbaijan table shows two events marked with questions marks – peaks 8 and 11, and the month and year of their occurrence. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to identify the specific events which these peaks correspond to. If you know what these peaks represent, we would love to hear your ideas, so please discuss them on our Facebook page, here.
In Azerbaijan, peak 6 appears to be reports of the first oil to be piped out of the country based on the 1994 “contract of the century”, which itself appears to garner media attention after peak 5 (it is important to remember that events were identified based on timing, and with relatively small peaks, it is possible to misidentify events). Azerbaijan also has a peak related to the Eurovision song contest (peak 14), but, interestingly, not in May of 2012 when the country hosted the event. The hosting of Eurovision in Azerbaijan did not lead to a spike in coverage, in spite of the fact that it was billed by Azerbaijani authorities as a mega event and generally considered a controversial location for the event due to the country’s poor human rights record and prevalence of homophobic attitudes despite the event’s large popularity among the LGBT community. A year later, in May 2013, a spike in coverage coincides with the Eurovision voting scandal involving Russia and Azerbaijan. While Russian singer Dina Garipova finished second among Azerbaijani voters, Azerbaijan did not award any points to the singer.
This brings us to the question - what else wasn’t being talked about in Armenia and Azerbaijan? Some events which received less attention from the world's media than one might expect (they are there, but comparably small) are the 2008 presidential election protests in Armenia, and the “contract of the century” in Azerbaijan, signed in 1994 by the government with a conglomerate of Western oil companies.
In sum, the GDELT database is an interesting tool. While still not fully explored and having some issues, it is a big data project which will likely spur on future developments in the social sciences. On Thursday, we will explore the global media coverage of the third South Caucasus country, Georgia.
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