Some complaints ended with homes, others with court cases.
Throughout 2018, many Azerbaijani citizens turned to Meydan TV in order to draw attention to their problems in the hopes of having them resolved. Due to state agencies’, especially local ones’, inability to solve people’s problems effectively, many rely on Meydan TV to publicize their grievances, and often it is civil society and other citizens who come to their aid. Unfortunately, not all stories end well, as some face retribution for turning to Meydan TV. Nevertheless, the effect publicity generated by Meydan TV creates generally leads to positive, rather than negative, results.
This year, Meydan TV received an overwhelming number of complaints from regions outside of the capital, Baku. According to economic expert Azar Mehtiyev, this should come as no surprise, “People in the regions have numerous specific problems, which local state agencies should be eliminating. Unfortunately, however, local government officials often cover them up instead, and citizens turn to civil society for answers.”
One of the largest problems in the regions is unemployment. A proposed solution would be to establish and fund departments and agencies closer to the population in the regions, which would eliminate the need for the agencies to turn to central agencies in Baku. The result of this, says Mehtiyev, is that, “In most cases, those complaints get lost on the way and fail to reach their intended recipient”. Unfortunately, all state programs that have focused on the economic development of the regions have not addressed social problems, focusing on more concrete issues such as infrastructure, electricity, gas and water, says Mehtiyev.
Until then, civil society will continue to play a large role in solving citizen’s problems. Here are some of the highs of 2018:
- At the beginning of the year, Meydan TV reported on social problems faced by Ilkin Talibov, a resident of Khachmaz, who was in extended army service and lost his eyes in fighting in Fuzuli in 2015. While Ilkin Talibov was fighting at the front line, one of his close relatives demolished his house. The relative built a new house for himself in the place of the old house, and Ilkin's mother and sister had to relocate to Baku and live at another relative’s. Ilkin, who returned visually impaired, also had to stay there. A short while after Meydan TV reported on this problem of the family, foreign-based businessman Fuzuli Mammadov gifted Ilkin a new flat.
- A street in the city of Agstafa was also renovated after people living in that street complained to Meydan TV. The road, which connects six of the district's villages to the center of the district, had been in a bad condition for years. According to the residents, when hundreds of people walked down the road every day, they wrapped their feet in cellophane to prevent their shoes getting covered in mud.
- A businessman responded to a call from the family of Murad Meatily, 3, who lives in Hokmali and needed an urgent surgery. The businessman paid for the boy’s surgery. Murad was number 400 on the Health Ministry's list; his family would have otherwise waited for years for the surgery.
- Avaz Valiyev, resident of the village of Darvadibi in Lerik, who lost two of his 10 children, of whom four have epilepsy, because he could not pay for their medical treatment for lack of money, had to leave his home after a landslide. After Meydan TV coverage, the Lerik executive authorities promised his home would be restored, and individuals provided financial aid to the family.
Unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending. The state of workers’ rights in Azerbaijan was on display as well:
- On 26 July 2018, Gazakh resident Royala Azimova told Meydan TV that after they turned to the local executive authorities with requests for a job, the Gazakh District utilities companies combine employed them as street sweepers. Several months later she was dismissed from her job after she complained that her boss had part of her salary. Combine chief Arif Heydarov took the former employee to court to "defend his honor and dignity" and to seek "moral damages" in denial of what had been published, seeking 10,000 AZN (5,894 USD) in moral damages. Just days before the end of the year, a judge ruled against Azimova, lowering the damages to 300 AZN (177 USD).
Until state agencies begin playing a large role in social problems, Meydan TV will continue to receive and publicize injustices and problems in the regions as well as Baku. While the results are unfortunately not always favorable, the many successful outcomes foretell a positive trend that will hopefully continue in 2019 as well.