Several Armenian journalists visited Baku on November 17-18, though their identities and itinerary remain unknown. A similarly “undercover” group of Azerbaijani journalists is also expected in Yerevan this week.
The visits are organized by Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministries, together with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, as a result of the agreements reached by Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mamedyarov last April. At the time, the OSCE mediators issued a statement noting that Armenia and Azerbaijan “expressed their willingness to start concrete work on establishing contacts between people, including through mutual visits of media representatives.”
According to a source cited by Verelq News “Armenian journalists had walked around Baku and had a number of [official] meetings.” According to Turan, “visit is taking place in secrecy in order to keep Armenian journalists safe.” Last February, Turan editor Shahin Hajiyev visited Armenia publicly, without any safety concerns reported.
Previous such visits took place through mediation of the Russian Culture Ministry, when groups of Armenian and Azerbaijani public figures visited Baku, Stepanakert, Shushi and Yerevan in 2007 and 2009. During the second, July 2009 visit, three Armenian journalists were part of the Armenian delegation that went to Baku.
Civil society and media visits took place regularly in the late 1990s – early 2000s, until Azerbaijani government began to restrict them, with none happening in recent years.