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Watchdog Calls On Russia To End Information 'Black Hole' In Nagorno-Karabakh

Around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed to the region.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Russia to stop denying entry to foreign reporters in the South Caucasus disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and is urging the United Nations and Council of Europe to ensure respect for the right to the freedom to inform.

Russian peacekeepers controlling access to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia via the Lachin Corridor have denied entry to at least 10 foreign journalists since February, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on April 9.

“A growing number of foreign journalists are being systematically refused entry by Russian soldiers,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

Cavelier warned that without international media, Nagorno-Karabakh “is liable to become a news and information ‘black hole.’”

Last fall, Azerbaijani and Armenian forces fought a brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

The six-week fighting concluded in November 2020 with a Russian-brokered cease-fire, under which a chunk of the region and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

It also resulted in the deployment of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers along frontline areas and the Lachin Corridor connecting the disputed territory with Armenia.

More than 6,000 people died in the fighting.

According to RSF, a French photographer, a reporter for the French TV channel M6, and a Canadian freelancer for The Guardian and CNN, were among the journalists who were denied entry in Nagorno-Karabakh since February.

The group said access to the region is also “restricted” via Azerbaijan. It cited the case of TV crews from France 24 and the European channel Arte which “made highly controlled visits from Azerbaijan and were not able to report freely.”

The Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement has no specific provision for the entry of journalists, RSF pointed out.

It said press accreditation is issued by the consulate of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities or by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

However, the Russia peacekeepers “grant or refuse entry to foreign citizens, who are notified of the decision on the eve of their planned visit,” while Armenians and Russians “just need to show their passports in order to enter” the region.

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