From Interstate - Journal of International Affairs VOL. 2014/2015 NO. 1
An Axe to Grind: An Overview of Hungary's 'Axe Murder Case' and its Effects on the International Community
The Reasons Behind the Extradition
As mentioned previously, Hungary’s decision to finally extradite Safarov after years of the continuous lobbying on the part of Azerbaijan was a sudden move and the motives behind the transport of the prisoner remain nebulous. As we have seen before, both Hungary and Azerbaijan confirmed the legitimacy of the extradition, but they failed to provide reasons for it. It seems that the best response the media could get was nothing more than a “because we can” answer. The strengthening economic ties between Hungary and Azerbaijan previously alluded to the first choice when it came to trying to discern reasons behind the decision. However, as soon as these accusations emerged, they have been refuted by both sides. In its official statement, the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan denied any rumours regarding the purchase of Hungarian debt obligations and the investment of any other financial tools in Hungary.28 The mass media proposed another possible reason for the quick extradition, namely the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia.29 By drawing public attention to the case of the extradition, both candidates could earn a massive amount of support from the population and secure their position by placing the ‘axe murder’ at the heart of their campaign.
As we can see, despite the recent silence in the international media, the case of Ramil Safarov may remain significant as the ethnic tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia continues to exist. The EU-Armenia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee stated during its thirteenth meeting, that the lack of meaningful progress regarding the issues of Nagarno-Karabakh is troubling to say the least. The Committee expressed a desire for a more stable and peaceful resolution to this conflict which is clearly in the interest of the whole region.30 While the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan is still significant, I believe it might be mitigated by new factors that had not been present during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The rise of international media over the last four decades offers an opportunity of familiarising ourselves with current issues in a matter of minutes. Despite the fact that the information we acquire is heavily processed and cannot be labeled as neutral, it undeniably shapes our opinions and our attitude towards certain issues.31 By influencing the opinion of the citizens, the media can have a significant impact on political decision making. Piers Robinson defines this phenomenon as the ‘CNN effect’. Robinson argues that due to the development of real-time communications technologies, the media is now capable of provoking major responses from domestic audiences on both global and national events.32 I believe that the attention of the media could have been a possible restricting force that contained the conflict, as many of the international observers had the chance to readjust their positions and react almost immediately after the events that transpired by asking the involved actors to practice restraint.
This attention was undoubtedly missing in the 1990s, when it would have been of utmost importance. People condemned and praised the actions of the past few months and decades based on different understandings of morality. Even though these moral views might differ from each other, the rise of international media and websites allow individuals to engage in discourse and encourage the citizens to share their opinion regarding conflicts like the ‘axe murder case’, which might help in containing such issues. However, we must not forget the importance of diplomacy and formal discourse of the governments. I believe that the process of the extradition could have been handled more smoothly if Azerbaijan and Hungary had approached the Armenian state first and discussed the issue in a more formal environment.
In conclusion, we can state that the extradition of Ramil Safarov caused a major diplomatic storm in Europe that attracted the attention of domestic and international actors as well. While the dispute posed a certain threat to the stability of the Caucasus region, fortunately it failed to ignite physical confrontation of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The international community of organisations and states succeeded in containing the conflict and prevented escalation. Following the extradition, the outrage and threat have seemingly decreased, but as the ‘axe murder’ case had shown, states must tread with caution in today’s “media covered” world. Media reaches far further in our world than it did two decades ago and its significance cannot be dismissed by governments.
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