APA reported that on November 17 the President of the Azerbaijani Republic, Ilham Aliyev, met with a group of participants of the 5
News Agencies World Congress.
During the meeting, the president said: “If there is free internet in our country, without censure, and 75 percent of the population are internet users, then how can we speak of restriction on freedom of the press!? If two million of our citizens are registered in the social networks Facebook and Twitter, then how can we restrict freedom of the press!? We don’t set these sorts of political objectives for ourselves”.
He noted that the goal of the Azerbaijani government is to continue construction of a modern, developing, democratic society, where all freedoms are ensured: “This pertains to other freedoms as well. For example, to freedom of assembly. Sometimes Azerbaijan is criticized for not having freedom of assembly. This isn’t true. One simply has to look at the rallies held by the opposition this summer. I want to note that they didn’t manage to get many people to come out for them, their number was less than the number of participants of the event held that evening in the Heydar Aliyev Center. However, they gathered freely, there were no sort of restrictions. Once more I’d like to note that in Azerbaijan the freedom of the press is fully ensured. Questions connected with individual journalists shouldn’t be examined out of context.”
“What do you have in mind when you speak of the world? You always love to speak in the name of the world. I have seen this for myself over the course of the 13-year period of my presidential activity. The world is a broader concept than some country taken individually. We often encounter the expression that the international community is concerned about this or that question. In that case, we need to define – what is implied when we speak of “the international community”? The international community is the 200 member-states of the UN. Yesterday, in my address, I said that two-thirds of these governments supported the question of Azerbaijan’s membership in the UN Security Council. I also noted in my address yesterday that freedom of the press in Azerbaijan is fully ensured. It’s enough to simply turn one’s attention to the heart of this matter”, said the President.
The head of the government noted that in many countries journalists commit crimes for which they become the subject of investigation: “We should be objective in this matter, should approach the question from a position of objectivity. I also want to present you with a question: Azerbaijan is often criticized along the lines of the issues I’ve noted; can you tell me, why is Julian Assange still in the Ecuadorian embassy in London? Because of his connections with some woman several years ago, Julian Assange was threatened with extradition and a death sentence. For more than two years he has been in the embassy and fears to go outside. How can you explain this? Is this a democratic way to treat journalists? What can we say about this sort of treatment?”
We remind our readers that, according to the results of the most recent research from Reporters Without Borders, the situation with freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Azerbaijan was rated as “extremely severe”. Azerbaijan is in 163
place in the list of 180 countries, whereas its closest neighbors are in 64
(Georgia) and 74
According to information from the Media Rights Institute, journalists in Azerbaijan, as previously, experience difficulties with access to information and are subject to pressure. The situation with freedom of speech in the country continues to deteriorate.
In independent journalist Leyla Mustafaeva’s investigative report “Government money spent on the media: How can you buy a US president?” it states that in 2010-2015, by a decree of Ilham Aliyev, 76 million manat (about 63.8 million euro, according to the exchange rate in February, 2015) were allocated for the Press Council and the KIVDF (State Fund for the Support of Mass Media Development). This figure consists 0.07% of the state budget revenue for a single year.