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Today IREX held a conference on the topic of the “media ethics during the election period” at the hotel Park Inn with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The aim of the conference is helping the journalists to effectively the cover election process during the pre-election campaign period. The thoughts of the chiefs of media organs, journalists, NGO chairmen, members of the international and local organizations, and experts about the professional ethics and standards during the election period were heard. In addition, the pressures against Khadija Ismayilova were discussed in the opening of the conference.
The ambassador of USA to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar noted that he has stated USA’s support to the freedom of media in Azerbaijan many times. “Free media both educates the nation and makes the government responsible”, noted the ambassador.
According to him, free media is more important during the elections. The ambassador thinks that there are problems in the accurate and fair delivery of information in a lot of media organs, regardless of their directions in Azerbaijan. Professionalism and ethical responsibility are important for the accurate information flow.
“Some media organs give preference to the information based on rumors. Completely false Information and quotations are written. I call upon the whole media to make changes in order to ensure the accurate flow of information”, said the ambassador.
He also doesn’t neglect that there are other, very courageous journalists too. They publish articles according to international standards and face pressure. “The black PR campaign held against Khadija Ismayilova creates concern. No journalist has to face the things done to Khadija Ismayilova. These are contrary to the interests of Azerbaijan. What was spread about Khadija Ismayilova on the internet is false and unacceptable. We shouldn’t accept this and we have to raise our voice against it.
Chairman of the Press Council, Aflatun Amashov said there is press freedom in the country and citizens have the opportunities to bring their thoughts to the public attention. Main problem of the media, according to him, is its economic weakness and inaccessibility to advertisers.
After constitutional changes banned the secret filming, a provision was added to the Journalists’ Code of Conduct allowing for secret filming of events of public importance, said Amashov.
A hotline will operate in the Press Council during the election period and monitoring will be conducted with the aim to fight against smear campaigns, followed Amashov.
At this point, journalists remarked that the newspaper “Azerbaijan”, which is financed with taxpayers’ money, does not follow the Journalists’ Code of Conduct. This newspaper publishes articles against the opposition, without learning or publishing their position. However the editor of this newspaper is also a board member of the Press Council.
The journalists also drew Amashov’s attention to the ictimaipalatka.az website that has engaged for months in smearing and humiliating ordinary people and presidential candidates.
Amashov said the defamation law will be adopted in the near future.
International experts participating in the discussions said it is necessary not only for independent but also for the official media to criticize shortcomings of the government. “Being in opposition to the government does not mean being an enemy of the state. BBC is the official media of England, yet it also criticizes the government” said Ivor Gaber, professor of political journalism from Great Britain.
He believes that along with the perfectness of legislation, political will is also needed in order to guarantee the media freedom.