April 14th, 2008
Yesterday, on “ANS” TV channel’s “Hesabat” program, Presidential Administration Socio-Political Department head Ali Hasanov expressed his opinion about the beating of “Azadlig” Newspaper correspondent Agil Khalil and OSCE Special Representative on Press Freedom Miklos Haraszti’s recent visit to Azerbaijan.

“No one, neither an expert from a foreign country nor an official or unofficial representative from any organization can talk to Azerbaijan’s government like this,” said Hasanov. “Azerbaijan’s government is an official entity that protects the interests of the Azerbaijani People. Haraszti’s call on official government organizations in this tone is the height of emotionalism. We appoint representatives of the OSCE and they are financed through the membership fees we pay. Their obligation is to determine strategies on security issues between our governments, to discuss them with us and accept them.   

I have met Haraszti maybe 10 times. He is not a professional journalist. During the Soviet times, in Soviet Hungary, Haraszti was imprisoned for 20 days for some action.  Some time ago, as an intellectual, he carried out some activities in Hungary. The words Haraszti said about Azerbaijan’s press are as though he came to mobilize the press to rise up for a struggle against the government. The OSCE’s function is not to mobilize journalists for a struggle with the government, journalists are supposed to satisfy society’s need for information. If Haraszti wants to be involved in politics in Azerbaijan, he can come, get citizenship and create a political party. After this, he can struggle against Azerbaijan’s government and mobilize people.  
When Haraszti was in Azerbaijan he said he came because there are three imprisoned journalists. This statement is unfounded. I declare that in our country there is no ill-intentioned relationship with journalists. Azerbaijan was ranked #1 in the world for the free press. My thoughts are the thoughts of the Azerbaijani society. Everyday in the opposition and party press in Azerbaijan, and on ‘Radio Liberty,’ ‘BBC’ and ‘Voice of America,’ criticism of official organs of the government, and the hurling of slander at them can be seen.  This type of press is present in very few countries. Even in the USA the life of a press like this is very short. Only in Azerbaijan is this type of press unhindered. An employee of some press institution who doesn’t have a Press ID, who has only done photo work for two months, who tries to take pictures of some person on the street with out showing an ID and then puts up resistance against a person who doesn’t want their photo taken, the blowing of this situation out of proportion is not acceptable. This person has no Press ID, if I am lying let them print it and show when it was given. All of this shows that this is some sort of premeditated incident to discredit the government of Azerbaijan.”
*In connection with this statement, IRFS spoke to “Azadlig” Newspaper Director Azer Ahmedov. Ahmedov said that Khalil did have a Press ID until February 22, when Akif Jodarov snatched the idea out of Khalil’s hand before he beat him. And Khalil told IRFS that he has been working at “Azadlig” Newspaper since March 2007. At the same, Khalil reported to IRFS even on 23 Feburary, right after the 22 February incident, that his ID had been taken by the people who beat him.