Al Jazeera English in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh
After a hectic two days accompanying a film crew from Al Jazeera English to interviews and locations I had planned for them before their arrival, time for a break now they’re in Nagorno Karabakh. If the official representation of the disputed and self-declared republic had anything to do with it, the whole schedule would have been disrupted and their journey delayed until Monday even though they need to be in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday.
Soviet style bureaucracy at its worst. Michael Andersen and Richard Gillespie had already sent their accreditation letters and application forms weeks before arriving on Thursday morning, and the Karabakh consul had confirmed to me by phone two days beforehand that everything was processed. Stupidly, we believed them. On Thursday we were instead told that it was necessary to complete the same forms again.
They were also told not to travel to Karabakh on a weekend because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was closed. Instead they should cancel Friday’s schedule and travel then or Sunday. Of course, the consul knew someone who could drive them for $300, but when it became apparent nobody was going to buy any of that, she changed her mind and let them travel as requested. No joy with arranging an interview with the Nagorno Karabakh President or Minister of Foreign Affairs, though.
Nobody knew when they’d be back in Karabakh and we "needed to write an official request" for an interview anyway. Great, especially as Al Jazeera English ad already sent such an "official request" twice. We were needlessly delayed for an interview with former Karabakh commander Zhirayr Sefilian by 40 minutes as a result. Still, looks like we have an interview with the Armenian president, Serge Sargsyan, on Tuesday when they return to Yerevan to accompany one already held with former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
Armenia’s a little bit more together when it comes to dealing with foreign journalists. Nagorno Karabakh, despite its small size, obviously isn’t. Hope Michael and Richard have better luck on the ground.