Azadliq newspaper given debt repayment extension

Azadliq (freedom) newspaper has received permission to continue publishing for two more weeks after partially repaying an outstanding debt to “Azerbaijan” publishing house. 

Caucasian Knot reports that on June 14th, Azadliq received a notice from the state - run publishing house, “Azerbaijan”, in which they were ordered to close a debt owed to the publisher by the 27th of June, or face suspension. 

As of June 1st, the paper’s total debt amounted to 17,662 AZN (11,681 USD) for printing costs, in addition to 1,064 AZN (704 USD) for utilities. 

The editorial office of the paper is located in the same building as “Azerbaijan” publishing house.

Azadliq was founded in December of 1989, and has remained one of the only surviving independent media outlets in Azerbaijan. The paper is published six times a week, and has a daily circulation of around 6,000 copies. Its political orientation is close to that of the opposition party, the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party. 

Rahim Hajayev, the deputy chief editor of the paper, told Caucasian Knot that Azadliq was able to partially repay their outstanding debt by the 27th. He declined to specify what percent of the debt was paid: ”I will not mention figures because the amount of debt is constantly changing. The publisher has agreed to not suspend our publication for the moment, and we have been given a two - week extension.”

Hajayev further told Caucasian Knot that the two weeks of proceeds paid to the publishing house will unfortunately increase the delay of salary payments to employees: 

"Journalists have been paid only up until January 2016. The newspaper is published only because of the enthusiasm of our dedicated journalists…” 

Hajayev pointed to restrictions imposed by the authorities on the distribution of the publication as a further reason for the newspaper’s woes: 

"The infrastructure of sales points has been basically eliminated. Earlier, we might sell 5-6 thousand copies a day only in the metro. But the government decided to eliminate the sale of periodicals in the subway. Street distributors who delivered newspapers at cafes, shops and to drivers used to sell a lot as well. An additional 2,000 copies. offering. But they, too, have been dispersed and discouraged from peddling on the street.”

Moreover, Hajayev claims that press kiosks, established by the authorities themselves, are unwilling to sell newspapers. “Actually, they are just like mini-markets, where they sell water, juice, cigarettes, sweets and all sorts of stuff," - said Hajiyev, adding that the newspapers in these kiosks are often displayed in inconspicuous places. 

The journalist suggested that the Azerbaijani authorities should "pursue a policy for the survival of the opposition press."

"All of this is done intentionally. National, pro-governmental and pseudo- oppositional media receive assistance through the state fund on media support. And we are displeasing the authorities because  we write the truth, everything as it is. We are being economically destroyed." - He explained.

Azadliq is managed by Qanimad Zahid, who moved to Europe with his family in September 2011 due to conflicts with Azerbaijani authorities. Three relatives of Qanimat Zahid are currently being held in Azerbaijani prisons and have been accused of drug possession. Zahid connects the persecution of his relatives with his journalistic activity.