April 7th, 2008

OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Miklos Haraszti, who is currently visiting Baku, presented the “Media Self-Regulation Guidebook” this morning in the International Press Center.

Haraszti said it is the first time such a book has been published and it is only being presented in Azerbaijan. Haraszti said, “The press shouldn’t belong to government. The journalists themselves should stand as guards of the press. The government is not obligated to protect the press. What the government can do is liberalize legislation and decriminalize defamation.”
The OSCE representative emphasized that there is no absolutely responsible mass media in the world, but commercial media does exist. Haraszti added, “Lately, we have been monitoring issues related to freedom of speech. We are very concerned about the arrests of journalists. The journalists should not be arrested because of their professional mistakes.”
Press Council Chairman Aflatun Amashov said in his speech that he believes an ombudsman for the media will be created. According to him, it is not reasonable to demand that the press be totally free from responsibility.  
“Yeni Musavat” Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Rauf Arifoglu said that the situation of the press in Azerbaijan is very difficult. “Although I have always faced difficulties and was arrested a number of times, I had never before felt this hopeless. The Azerbaijani media is being destroyed in front of the whole world. There are only 2 or 3 newspapers that are truly independent. Only two sectors remain free of oligarch monopoly of the government. One of them is written press. They want to turn us into a monopoly. We have been resisting this for years. I hope one of the old editors will remain by this time next year to start the work again,” he said.