Today, a graduation ceremony for the first group of students to complete the In-Depth Investigative Training Program, a project implemented jointly by the International Center for Journalists, and funded by the U.S. Embassy and the Chingiz Mustafayev Fund in Baku, Azerbaijan, was held.
The students, eight mid-career journalists, underwent four months of intense journalism training, mastering the skills of print, radio and TV reporting.
Head trainer Chuck Rice told guests at today's ceremony that the biggest thing the students learned was determination. While nearly all of the students were initially denied interviews with government officials for reports they composed as part of their training, after much persistence up to 90 percent of the interviews were ultimately granted.
ANS Media and Broadcast Company president Vahid Mustafayev also addressed the graduates and guests on hand. He recalled his brother Chingiz Musafayev, an Azerbaijani journalist slain in Nagorno-Karabakh while covering the war, and thanked Musafayev's family for supporting this program through the Chingiz Mustafayev Fund. Mustafayev also emphasized the importance of the free press in a democratic society. He said, "We don't have democracy like in America, but at least we're better than Turkmenistan."
U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse, Azerbaijan's Presidential Administration Socio-Political Department Deputy head Nazim Izazov and Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Khazar Ibrahimov also spoke during the graduation ceremony.
Two more groups will be selected to undergo the same training, with the next group starting their training February. The project's goal is to improve the standards of journalism in Azerbaijan by providing interested journalists with practical skills and in depth investigative reporting training. To learn more about the program go to www.icfj.org.