AZERBAIJAN MARKS WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

The Council of Press held an event to mark World Press Freedom Day today.

A UNESCO representative opened the event, and discussions followed. With very few exceptions, speakers did not touch upon media problems or the illegal harassment of journalists. Press Council Chairman Aflatun Amashov and other representatives reported that there are no problems with licensing newspapers. They tried to claim that the registration of over 4,000 newspapers is a sign that freedom of press in Azerbaijan is healthy. The speakers did say that there are serious problems with racketeering in Azerbaijani journalism.

“Ayna-Zerkalo” newspaper’s editor-in-chief Elchin Shikhli said that the Azerbaijani media sector lacks a normal competitive environment, and that if these repressions continue only 5 or 6 print media outlets will be to operate here.

Baki Khabar newspaper editor Aydin Guliyev said that the increasing self-censorship of journalists is not normal international practice. Guliyev condemned the violence and legal violations against the journalists.

Upon seeing the cameras, Press Council Charman Aflatun Amashov evaded questions about the physical assaults against Azadlig newspaper employees Seymur Hezi and Ramin Deco. After the cameras went off, Amasov said that it was the responsibility of Media Rights Institute Director Rashid Hajili to liaise with law-enforcement agencies on these issues, though he added that he would be speaking with the police today. He finished with a statement confirming that the Press Council was interested in solving these crimes and bringing the criminals into justice.

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