Azerbaijani press: the crisis continues
2017 July 22 ( Saturday ) 01:57:28
The Azerbaijani press celebrates its professional holiday on July 22, which dates back to 1875 year, when the first national newspaper "Ekinchi" (Sower) was established by the educator Hasanbey Zardabi.
Can we say today that the current journalistic cohort carries an educational spirit of many years ago? Yes, the modern press is also poor as its first predecessors. But the poverty of Zardabi was compensated by the high destiny of Ekinchi, which, like other similar publications, in the words of the classic, sowed reasonable, kind and eternal. Modern journalism brings society something unreasonable and mean.
This is natural, since today the press expresses the interests not of society, but the authorities, which is an official-oligarchic mixture that put the state at the service of its interests. Serving such antisocial interests about the essence has plunged the country into a long-term and painful crisis. The modern Azerbaijani press is a direct participant in this critical situation, as it has for many years recited the successes and advantages of one of the most corrupt governments in the world.
Last journalistic year brought nothing good to the Azerbaijani press in terms of creative freedom, security and economic prosperity.
Toughening for Defamation
Azerbaijani lawmakers adopted a number of amendments to the Criminal Code with the aim of protecting first of all the honor and dignity of the head of state. On November 29, 2016, amendments were made to Article 323 of the Criminal Code "Emptying or Degrading the Honor and Dignity of the Head of State", which in the current wording prescribes punishment in the form of fines, correctional labor or imprisonment for up to two years for insulting the president in public speeches, publicly displayed works or mass media. Article 323-1 was added "for insulting someone else's behalf from the Azerbaijani President." Such an act provides for three years of imprisonment. In Article 148-1, providing liability for the insult on the Internet, the addition was made "using fake names, profiles or accounts." It provides for deprivation of liberty for up to one year. But this was not the only thing. On June 1, 2017, the punishment for discrediting the honor and dignity of the president was increased to 5 years in prison. The amount of fines increased two or three times to 1500 and 3000 manats.
Since April 17, 2017, the activities of Internet information resources on top-level domains have been taken under the control of the state. For this purpose, amendments were made to the law "On Information, Informatization and Protection of Information", as well as "On Telecommunications". Changes oblige the hosting provider and the Internet provider in case of detection of prohibited information to notify the owner of the site and delete it. Otherwise, access to the resource will be limited in court, and the owners themselves hosting or providers will be punished. Independent experts saw this as an attempt to tighten censorship on the Internet and were right. In the spring, opposition sites of Meydan TV, RadioAzadlyg, Azerbaijan Saati, Azadliq.info were officially blocked.
The consistent tightening of the threat of punishment suggests that the authorities have faced growing criticism on the Internet, including the media and social networks. This also suggests that the mechanism of professional and ethical self-regulation in the media, which was created in 2003 by the journalistic community, completely devalued and no longer has an impact on the formation of a quality information environment of the Internet space. Virtually the authorities found themselves in a pit, which they dug for an Azerbaijani journalist, depersonalizing it with bribes, blackmail, and violence. The information community has been divided into the power of serving and voracious critics seeking revenge. The principles of balance, objectivity, and pluralism are left out of journalism. The power is unable to take control the information space and protect itself from defamation.
Deprivation of freedom of speech
The past year continued the practice of neutralizing journalists through arrests under various pretexts - hooliganism, extortion. During the year, four journalists and two bloggers were arrested, one of whom Mehman Galandarov was killed in prison. The last apotheosis of this kind of punishment was the kidnapping of journalist Afgan Mukhtarly in Tbilisi and trafficking in Azerbaijan by criminal way to Azerbaijan in May this year.
In total, the number of arrested journalists and bloggers reached 14.
Dozens of journalists who cooperate with blocked opposition resources are subjected to state pressure. They are regularly involved in interrogations in the Prosecutor General's Office, they are banned from leaving the country, accounts are blocked. Power and psychological pressure on journalists, as can be seen from the results of the year, remains one of the important tools for suppressing freedom of speech, strengthening of self-censorship in journalism.
List of arrested persons
1. Aliyev Nijat Nazim oglu - chief editor of the site Azadxeber.org
2. Guliyev Araz Faik oglu - editor-in-chief of the religious site xeber44.com
3. Ramazanov Rashad Agaaddin oglu - blogger
4. Seymour Khazi Mashgul oglu - journalist of the opposition newspaper Azadlig
5. Shiraliyev Javid Alesker oglu - editor of the site "7 gun.az"
6. Fikret Faramaz oglu - editor-in-chief of the site "jam.az"
7. Sadygov Afgan Hetemkhan oglu - founder and editor-in-chief of the site Azel.TV
9. Ismail Elchin - editor-in-chief of the site "kent.info"
10. Huseynov Mehman-blogger, head of the Institute for Freedom and Safety of Reporters (IRFS)
11. Hasanov Tofik Hasai oglu, satirist
satirist12. Shakarli Asad Saday oglu - journalist, publicist
13. Aziz Orujov, Executive Director of Internet TV "Channel 13"
14. Afgan Mukhtarly - journalist
In 2016, the Azerbaijani media continued economic decline, noted the State Statistics Committee. In general, the volume of the main legal income of the media - media advertising declined by 43.9%, amounting to 14.675.000 manat ($8.621.190). TV advertising, which includes 10 central and as many regional TV channels, fell by 11.800.000 manat or 59.4%, amounting to 8.036.000 manat ($4.720.950). On average, 400,000 fell on one TV channel. On the radio, advertising declined by 1.615.300 manat or 52.2%, amounting to 1.479.000 ($868.870). About 10 radio stations broadcast in Azerbaijan and, on average, each account for 147,000 manats a year. Internet advertising lost 318.600 manat or 20.3%, amounting to 1.247.000 ($ 732.580). Here there are about 200 media sites, on average, about 6,000 manat per site.
Finally, advertising in newspapers and magazines fell by 8,700 manat or 0.61%, amounting to 1.400.000 ($87.530.) There are about 30 printing newspapers and magazines. On average, each of them accounts for 46 thousand advertising money per year. The share of the media advertising market in GDP was 0.02% at the international rate of 1%. This is the lowest figure for the last 10 years. In 2005, this indicator was at the level of 0.14%. It was slightly more or less, starting from the mid-1990s until the crisis year of 2015.
The data of the advertising market show a continuing trend of increasing media dependence on the authorities, which are the main sponsors of the media. The vast majority of funds are received illegally in the media, and only a part is officially subsidized by the state through the State Media Development Fund. Since the existence of this structure - from 2009-2016 about 28 million manat has been allocated. "Approximately the same amount of money was used to solve the problems of media structures," said Ali Hasanov, presidential aide in December 2016. Legal funding is provided in the form of grants for print media and apartments for journalists. Another house for 255 apartments will be handed over to the journalist brotherhood on July 22.
Data of the media advertising market
|Overall||25. 969,100 ($ 24,732)||14,675,000 ($ 8,621,190)||-43.9%|
|TV||19. 836.000 ($ 18,891)||8.036.000 ($ 4,720,950)||-59.4%|
|Radio||3.094.300 ($ 2 946.9)||1.479.000 ($ 868.870)||-52.2%|
|Internet||1.565.600 ($ 1491)||1.247.000 ($ 732.580)||-20.3%|
|Newspapers and magazines||1.408.700 ($ 1341)||1.400.000 ($ 87.530)||-0.61%|
Access to the information
The access of journalists to information, primarily state structures, remains a big problem. Despite the existence of a legislative framework (the Law on Mass Media, the Law on Freedom of Information, Criminal Code), it is extremely difficult to obtain the necessary information for writing articles. Official structures, beginning with the Presidential Administration and below, practically ignore the legislation and prevent information from being received within the time prescribed by law - immediately, within 24 hours and within 7 days. Often the answers are denied. Such an experience the agency Turan has with the Executive Power of Baku, the Ministry for Emergency Situations, JSC Azersu. Answers cannot be obtained even in court. Litigations with such subjects are delayed for months and years. The practice of obtaining answers indicates the sabotage of the work of journalists by state structures and judicial bodies. The Human Rights Ombudsman Institute, which is responsible for implementing the Law on Freedom of Access to Information, is practically incapable of solving these problems.
The specified aspects of the activity of mass media state the continuation of the long-term crisis of the press, in which its current regime in Azerbaijan drove. These aspects point to a purposeful and consistent neutralization of the press, and can be considered as a well thought out state policy on the media. The main goal of this policy is to deprive the press of the role of public control over the activities of the authorities. The loss of the public control function by the press led to unprecedented scale of abuse of the bureaucracy, corruption, and, finally, to the economic and systemic crisis in the country.