Hearing Begins on ANS CM Radio Case against National TV and Radio Council

September 2nd, 2016

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Baku Administrative Economic Court #1 chaired by Judge Elchin Mammadov held a hearing on ANS CM Broadcasting and Media Company’s (Radio) case against the National Television and Radio Council (NTRC) requesting the repeal of the NTRC’s decision of July 18 to cancel the radio’s license and demanding indemnity in the amounts of 4,317,000 AZN for material damage, 355,000 AZN for loss of profit and 1,000,000 AZN for moral damage.

The hearing was attended by ANS CM Broadcasting and Media Company’s representatives, Sevda Maharramova, Company’s President Vahid Mustafayev and vice-president Mirshahin Agayev, lawyer Ragif Mustafayev and NTRC representative Togrul Mammadov.

Representatives of several embassies observed the hearing.

ANS CM Broadcasting and Media Company vice-president, ANS TV Channel General Director Mirshahin Agayev made a speech at the hearing. “Today, a historical trial is taking place in Azerbaijan. This is, at the same time, the trial of the history itself. On trial is also the 25 years of the history. Standing before the court here are the people and the events which ANS has filmed during 25 years and recorded for history in its golden archives. From the moment when the first fire was shot in Nagorno-Karabakh up until the declaration of the ceasefire, the defence, the occupation and the last days of each of our residential areas such as Khojali, Shusha, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Kalbajar, Lachin, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Khojavand have been filmed by ANS and is stored in our archives. We traversed every inch of Karabakh with our cameras in hand. The information giants of the world used only ANS’ video materials, as they feared to send their own reporters to these hotspots. The Khojali massacre, which is used as the most effectual weapon in Azerbaijan’s foreign politics, has become solid evidence thanks to journalist Chingiz Mustafayev’s services. We consider NTRC’s decision (administrative act) #09.1 dated 18 July 2016 to be completely unlawful and groundless, and ask the court to invalidate the said decision. We have sufficient grounds for this. I want to mention just one fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office submitted a request to suspend ANS TV’s broadcast for one month due to the necessity to investigate it. However, the NTRC exceeded its powers in carrying out this decision, in that the NTRC was supposed to restore ANS’ activity after one month rather than apply to the court for the revocation of ANS’ license; firstly because the Prosecutor General’s Office had not charged it with such a task, and secondly because, the right to grant and withdraw license belongs to the Ministry of Economy as of June 1 of the current year. The hasty closure of the ANS CM [Radio] named after the national hero Chingiz Mustafayev and the shutdown of ANS PRESS portals are also gross violation of the law. The NTRC simply took advantage of the opportunity. Allegedly, ANS TV presented a non-objective coverage of the events aimed at a coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey, conducted propaganda against the Turkish state and government, supported Fetullah Gulen who is known as a terrorist in this country and his supporters, interviewed Fetullah Gulen who is suspected of leading the coup attempt against the Turkish authorities, and its previews were aired by local and foreign media outlets. Each of these accusations is nonsense deserving refutation even at a second grade level, because first of all, ANS has not conducted such a propaganda, on the contrary, tried to offer equal opportunities for citizens to express their opinions and views on the broadcasted programmes in accordance with the principle of objectiveness of TV-radio activity, ideological and political pluralism and impartiality enshrined in Article 3 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic on Television and Radio Broadcasting. The views of the side accused of coup attempt in Turkey were given less coverage due to the fact that seeing the Azerbaijan-Turkey relations as those of strategic allies and brotherly countries ANS covered only official Ankara’s position. The ANS correspondent based in the United States did not interview Fetullah Gulen separately. It was a press conference and our employee participated in that alongside with journalists from dozens of reputable media, as well as Turkish journalists. She asked questions as everybody else and got responses and sent that material to ANS. The management of ANS did not consider it appropriate to air the material. As for the local and foreign mass media outlets announcing that the material would be aired on ANS TV, it requires strict clarification. We proved it at previous hearings that none of the mass media outlets belonging to ANS presented previews of the reportage featuring Fetullah Gulen, and, of course, the reportage itself was never aired,” Mirshahin Agayev said.

At the hearing, ANS CM’s lawyer Ragif Mustafayev filed a motion to suspend the execution of the decision dated 18 July 2016 and to impose an obligation on the defendant to restore the radio’s activity. “As a result of the TV and Radio Council’s actions, ANS and other affiliated organisations have suffered major damage. Our employees numbering close to one thousand have been rendered jobless and do not get wages. We are not in the position to wait for the case to go to the Supreme Court, and we do not intend to. Hearing the case, making the decision and its entry into force will take much time. During this time, the company will continue to incur damages. We therefore ask you to rescind the decision dated July 18 and to adopt a ruling to restore the radio’s activity as a temporary remedy,” the lawyer said.

While commenting on the motion, NTRC representative Togrul Mammadov called it unfounded and asked for its dismissal. “ANS supported the head of the terrorist organisation FETO Fetullah Gulen in connection with the events in Turkey, for which NTRC suspended ANS’ license for a month,” the NTRC representative said.

The judge rejected the motion.

Next, Ragif Mustafayev said they had not yet received the NTRC’s decision on cancellation of ANS CM’s license.

Vahid Mustafayev said they had been evicted from the building without any legitimate explanation and so far no one could enter the building. “No court order has been presented to us. The police came, kicked us out without any legal ground, and closed the doors. We have been unable to enter the building till now. We cannot retrieve our equipment. Even our cleaners cannot enter there to do cleaning work. According to the President’s decree of 1 June 2016, the authority to issue and withdraw licenses has been granted to the Ministry of Economy. For that reason, the TV and Radio Council were not entitled to annul ANS CM’s license. These illegalities should be remedied and our complaint should be granted. I caution everybody to be careful with what they do today so as not to feel embarrassed in front of people when the time comes,” Mustafayev said.

ANS CM’s another representative Sevda Maharramova filed a motion to allow ANS Commerce Company to join the case as the third party. “The decision of the TV and Radio Council has inflicted a serious blow to the interests of this company as well, and caused damage to it. The company in question had a contract with ANS CM Radio, under which it owned the exclusive right to place advertisement on ANS CM. The Company in turn signed contracts with various organisations on placing advertisement on this radio station. The advertisements cannot be aired since July 18. The suspension of the Radio’s activity has landed it in hot water with those organisations, i.e. has made it indebted to them. We therefore request you to involve ANS Commerce as a third party in the proceedings,” Maharramova said.

NTRC representative Togrul Mammadov asked for the rejection of the motion. The judge denied this motion, too.

“Almost one thousand employees of ANS are left jobless, and are in difficult situation. Some of them are seriously diseased. Some of our employees have relatives suffering from cancer and need money for their treatment. We are not thieves or bribe takers. We are not a state agency to rob money from the budget. We are viewing you as a monarch, and if you are a monarch, at least care about your servants. Do not leave people hungry on streets. Do not kill us. Let us live. Tomorrow, you will need us again. Have some mercy. Bear in mind that we are people, too. We are also citizens of this country. You may need us tomorrow,” Vahid Mustafayev said.

NTRC representative Togrul Mammadov presented NTRC’s decision dated 18 July 2016 and the defendant’s written objection to the statement of claim to ANS CM’s representatives.

ANS CM’s lawyer Ragif Mustafayev asked the court to give time for familiarisation with the served documents. The judge postponed the hearing until September 6, 2.15pm.

Background: On July 18, the NTRC adopted the decision to terminate the validity of the special permit (license) #TR100 issued to ANS CM Broadcasting and Media Company on 25 October 2013, in accordance with Article 23.2.8 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic on Television and Radio Broadcasting. ANS CM’s special permit (license) was revoked citing several instances of violation of the requirements of the legislation during the broadcast.

ANS first appealed to Baku Court of Appeal with regard to the issue, but the court advised that the matter be heard by Baku Administrative Economic Court #1.