COUNCIL OF EDITORS: SYSTEM OF DISTRIBUTING PRINTED MATERIALS REACHES A CRITICAL POINT

October 14th, 2011
The situation in the field of print media in Azerbaijan has reached a critical point. This conclusion was made at today's roundtable "Problems of press distribution in Azerbaijan" held by the Council of Editors in the Media Centre.

Despite the fact that international standards mandate one press kiosk per every 2,000 people,research conducted by the Najaf Najafov Fund found that in Azerbaijan there is only one kiosk for every 14,000 people. In comparison Germany has one kiosk serving every 1,000 people, the Czech Republic – 1200 people, the United States – 1500, and in Russia there is one kiosk per 3,000 people.
"In the beginning of 2010 there were 637 stalls in the country, 100 points of sale in supermarkets, and 60 points of street vendors,"  said researcher Shahvalad Chobanoglu. Recently, 20 out of 25 stalls were removed from the center of Baku, 22 stalls were removed in Ganja, and 12 from Sumgait, all ostensibly due to the construction going on in the cities. All of the kiosks belonged to two state-controlled joint-stock companies "GASID" and "Metbuat yayimi."
The editor of "Gundem Heber," Shirin Jafarli said that, "Our investigation revealed that the new kiosks belong to the "Khazar" company, which  is supported  by the head of the Presidential Administration’s socio-political department, Ali Hasanov.  He also said that there is not even one stall in 4,500 villages in Azerbaijan.
Street vendors of newspapers are persecuted by police and the situation in markets is not better, due to a prohibition on  the sale of independent and opposition newspapers. 
The system of selling of printed materials began to disintegrate in 1998, when political censorship was replaced by economic censorship. Economic censorship includes the destruction of print media’s advertising market, increasing expenses for use of publishing houses, and the destruction of the distribution network.
A lawyer of IREX, Alesker Mammadli, who also participated in the research, noted that the main problem is the interference of the state in the process. According to him, private companies should distribute periodicals, and the state must ensure the rights of citizens to freely access information. 
The editors mentioned unfair competition created by the state was mentioned, as the main cause for the distribution situation. For example, the newspaper "Azerbaijan Muallimi” has a circulation is 15,900 copies, but only 124 copies are sold in retail. Subscription to this and other state-owned newspapers is directed by the authorities. Mammadli proposed to take state-run newspapers out of circulation, leaving one for placing official information and documents.
The roundtable participants agreed to begin work on a project to improve distribution of printed materials with the support of international organizations.
As a first measure, they decided to prepare appeals to the president about the need to comply with international standards on the number of stalls and street vendors.