Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EC), rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for preparing report titled“Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” will make a fact-finding visit to Baku on 12-13 March 2015. In respect of this visit official PACE news website made a serious mistake calls the title of the report as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In his strong protest letter to Ms. Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe andMembers of the Bureau of PACE, copied to Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary-General of theCouncil of Europe, Mr. Wojciech Sawicki, Secretary-General of the PACE and Mr. Robert Walter,Rapporteur, member of the Azerbaijan Delegation to PACE MP Elkhan Suleymanov in order to prevent such kind of abuse in future proposed shifting the particular competence of management with the Assembly’s news from the Secretary-General to an independent and skillful bench of specialists.
Full text of the letter follows.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
On 2 September 2014 the Plenary Chamber of the PACE decided to endorse the decision by the Bureau to refer my motion to the Political Affairs Committee for report, on “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.
As all Bureau members will recall, several Bureau meetings characterized by very tough debates were needed before this decision was taken. Many procedural obstacles were repeatedly raised by the Secretary-General of PACE, in vain. Furthermore, the precise title of this report was the topic of a new and even tougher discussion. Armenian supporters as well as the Secretary-General kept insisting on reducing the title to “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”, which is in contradiction with both reality of the occupied territories as related current international standpoints.
After very hard bargaining the title “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was eventually supported by an overwhelming majority of the Bureau. It was endorsed by the Chamber, and an Armenian attempt to change it again in the Committee was massively turned down.
Huge importance given by all parties concerned to those disputes is best proof that the exact citation of title in the media is absolutely crucial in the context of this report.
But PACE administration unfortunately has a short memory.
Only few months later, on 6 March 2015 the PACE news website announces :
“PACE rapporteur makes fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan:
Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EC), rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), will make a fact-finding visit to Baku on 12-13 March 2015, in the context of the preparation of his report on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Mr Walter will meet refugees and IDPs, civil society representatives dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the international community.”
Whereas all PACE news items always mention the full and correct definition of the title of a new report, it was “forgotten” this time. On top of that, by some strange coincidence the exact preferred title by Secretary-General “…on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” pops up again in the article two times, even when precisely this title was clearly turned down several times, after fierce debates, and in his own presence.
As editor-in-chief of the news page on the PACE-website, the Secretary-General of PACE holds the monopoly on how and what public opinion should learn about PACE.
It is however unacceptable that one so-called neutral civil servant abuses this monopoly to give expression to his own political agenda, conflicting with official and crucial decisions taken by Bureau, Chamber and Committee, after long debates.
Even when he would claim not to be the author of that edit, it’s well-known at PACE that the Secretary-General carefully scrutinizes and approves all edits for the webpage. As head of administration he holds the final responsibility in this matter anyway, beyond any doubt.
As individual MP we are powerless against such political abuse of public PACE media.
Therefore we appeal today to the President of PACE to call to order the head of the PACE administration in this matter. I also kindly ask rapporteur Mr. Walter not to be misled and to mention always the full title, both before media and while reporting.
Finally, allow me to suggest to all Bureau members to shift this particular competence from the Secretary-General to an independent bench of specialists who edit news after collegiate agreement, and who are skilled both in communication as in legal aspects of decisions taken within PACE.
You will agree with me that in the house of democracy this crucial competence should not be in the hands of just one man.
With my highest consideration,
Member of the Azerbaijan Delegation to PACE