GUNDAM KHABAR NEWSPAPER PROTESTS AGAINST PRESSURES

August 23rd, 2011
“Gundam Khabar” newspaper founder Shirin Jafari held a press conference at IRFS today to publicized the criminal case launched against the newspaper, which has been charged with tax evasion and abuse of power.

Jafari said that he hadn’t received any official notification of the launch of the case and, and he is still unaware which newspaper article caused the problems.

He expressed doubt  that Ali Hasanov, the head of President Administration socio-political department  is involved, despite an article the paper published called “Empire built in the press”, on Hasanov’s media monopoly.

This attack, said Jafari, was initiated by the national Press Council.  

The Ministry of Taxes has reported that the newsapaper owes nearly 70,000 AZN in taxes.  The founder dismissed the allegation, saying that the newspaper only sells 1,000 copies of each edition. Jafari argued that to have come to this figure, the Ministry must have calculated sales at 8,000 copies per edition, a circulation level only reached by popular newspapers like Azadlig and Yeni Musavat.

Today’s edition led with the headline ‘Put an end to pressures against Gundam Khabar’. He asked for support from the community, and from media representatives for legal counsel. Lawyer Elchin Sadigov has undertaken the newspaper’s defence.

Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev alleged that the Press Council abused its power by complaining to a state-run institution, and that the body was failing to carry out its duties. Aliyev offered to carry out an investigation of the Press Council’s statement, the Tax Ministry documentation, and the criminal case launched by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
IRFS Head Emin Huseynov noted that the amendment made to Article 19 of the Law on Mass Media in 2008 entitled the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Justice to go to court and demand to shut down any mass media outlet. “It is interesting that the decree signed by the President also entitled Press Council, a non-govenmental organization, to do the same. I think it is a constitutional mistake and it needs more attention.”
Then several proposals were made. Khural editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli offered to restore the former Union of Editors. After discussions, the participants decided to arrange an assembly of the Union of Editors on September 2nd.
BACKGROUND
The Anti-Corruption Office under the General Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal case against the Gundam Khabar founder Shirin Jafari under Articles 213.2 (tax evasion) and 308.1 (abuse of power). This is attributed to an appeal filed by thePress Council requesting investigation into the newspaper’s operation.  According to reports, the newspaper went onto the official Black List of the Press Council, for publishing reports that humiliated the honor and dignity of people and for the violation of the Code of Ethics of journalists. The General Prosecutor’s Office press service reported that Jafari not only violated the Law on Mass Media, but also violated the requirements of tax legislation: the necessary documents needed to calculate tax were not presented, the accounting did not comply with laws, the number of published copies was not provided and the rules for cash operation were not followed. They concluded that the paper owes 68, 244 AZN in unpaid taxes.