OBTAINING INFORMATION MORE DIFFICULT FOR JOURNALISTS

February 21st, 2008
"Obtaining information was easy for journalists in 1991-1993 although there was no legislation to regulate this.

For example it was easier to go and get information from the Cabinet of Ministers back then, but this is impossible now. This was because the economic environment was more open and there weren’t any monopolies. As of 1993 a closed economic environment and illegal economy were formed. Then monopolies and disorder went on the rise, and thus it became difficult to obtain information," Turan Information Agency Director Mehman Aliyev said today, during a roundtable organized to discuss information freedom in Azerbaijan. Aliyev also noted that monitoring was conducted on print press. He said, "As the result of monitoring it became evident that journalists either refer to unknown sources or no sources at all. This is a problem, but it is not simply the journalists' problem. This is a problem that is created because of the impossibility of obtaining information. It is very hard for journalists to work in such a situation and this creates problems for the press. If the press has problems then the problems exist for society as well.
 
Multimedia Center Head Osman Gunduz said a project related to obtaining information has been implemented. Within the framework of this project information requests were sent to state organs and foreign companies on oil revenues, budget and the effect of oil revenues to the social situation. A total of 69 information requests seeking responses to 220 questions were sent. Thirty-four of them got replies, but the other 35 were not responded to within the four months that the monitoring was conducted. Thirty of the information inquiries that didn't get a reply were sent to state organs, while the remaining five were oil companies. Fifteen of 34 inquiries that got a response didn't cover all of the questions, and other questions were partially answered or were rejected for a variety of reasons. According to Azerbaijan’s legislation, information requests should be responded within 7 days. Only 6 percent of the 69 inquires were answered in a timely manner, 43 percent were replied to later than they should have been and 51 percent weren't answered at all.
 
Project expert Gubad Ibadoglu said, "The main issue is in the subject of information. Some organizations possess the information but don't give it. But there is also information that organizations are ready to give."
 
During the event other issues, like the Cabinet of Ministers, State Oil Company and foreign oil companies' (BP Azerbaijan, Statoil and Exon) refusal to give any information and the need to establish a media ombudsman as is delineated in the law "On Obtaining Information," were also discussed and some recommendations were made.