This was Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar’s message today at a roundtable held by Public Chamber Coordination Council.
He also criticized the activity of the Press Council: “This council should not blacklist journalists or newspapers. It needs to blacklist those who murder journalists, the prosecutors sanctioning journalists’ arrests and the judges sentencing the journalists to imprisonment.”
APFP chairman Ali Karimli focused his speech on criticism of international donor organizations. He stated that international donors fund projects that are not related to media development, saying “we should urge them to fund the creation of an independent publishing house and an alternative newspaper distribution network.”
Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev believes that the media situation has reached a critical level. “The current situation is similar to the one following Elmar Huseyov’s death. There have been destructive court rulings against the Yeni Musavat and Azadliq newspapers. In addition, Rafig Tagi’s death and Avaz Zeynalli’s baseless arrest are part of the attack on the media. There are operating 120 print outlets, but they hardly make any profit. The advertising market has been wiped out. The ban on newspaper distribution is becoming more destructive every day. The newly built news kiosks are selling anything but newspapers. The only solution is to mobilize. Political parties, NGOs, supporters of a free word, and the Press Council should all be involved in this struggle and a media development concept should be prepared.”
Aliyev added that the government is using money laundering to bring free media down. “We are about to finish our investigation on the financial situation of the media. We’ll disclose this report in the coming days. However, some figures are already known. The government allocates between 40 and 50 million AZN annually to control the media outlets that are loyal to it and that is how it helps limit free media.”
According to Yeni Musavat editor Rauf Arifoglu, they are operating in an environment of financial and personal terror. “A program to restrict press activities is ongoing. We face less pressure when society’s democratic parts are strong. Today, the press is close to collapse. After Elmar Huseynov’s death, youth stopped going into the press. Now parents do not want their children to be involved with this profession.”
Journalist Afghan Mukhtarli conveyed jailed Xural editor Avaz Zeynalli’s greetings to attendees. He spoke about arrest of Zeynalli under false charges and prohibition of Xural’s activity.
Journalist Shahvalad Chobanoglu spoke about newspaper distribution. He said that he has investigated this sphere and there are 40-50 news sales points per 1 million people, whereas this figure equals 6,000 in US; 1,000 in Scandinavian countries, and 330 in Russia.
Press Council representative Mushfig Alasgarli noted that these problems concern the Press Council as well. “The Press Council has held two discussion on the problems in news distribution and applied to the Baku City Executive Power regarding this issue. We pay attention to other media problems as well and use all opportunities to solve the problems.”
Azadliq newspaper editor Rahim Hajiyev said that serious actions should be taken against the recent pressures.
Journalist R. Rifoglu noted that journalists will launch protest actions against the current problems in coming days.