Category Archives: Media
The Mass Media of Azerbaijan about the Development of the Problem “Azerbaijanian Fuel-Energetic Sector: Macroeconomics, Diversification of Economy, Social Aspect” by the Think Tank
Information Agency “Turan” 03.01.2004
“Zerkalo”; 525-ji gazet (two materials);
“Yeni Musavat”; “Novoye Vremya” 21.12.2004
Information Agency “Turan” 23.12.2004
Information Agency “Turan” 05.01.2005
“Novoye Vremya” 25.01.2005
“Zerkalo”; “Novoye Vremya”; “Azadlig”;
“Tazadlar”; “Olaylar”; “Baki Khabar”;
525-ji gazet; “Echo”;
Komsomolskaya Pravda 01.02.2005
“Novoye Vremya” 05-09.02.2005
“Zerkalo”; “Novoye Vremya”;
“Baki Khabar” 11.02.2005
“Gun”; “Zerkalo” 20.03.2005
“Halg Jepesi”; “Ekspres”;
525-ji gazet; “Baki Khabar”;
“Novoye Vremya”; 29.03.2005
“Novoye Vremya”; “Zerkalo” 20.05.2005
525-ji gazet; “Mustagil Gazet”;
“Markaz”; “Zerkalo” 21.05.2005
“Baki Khabar” 21-22.05.2005
“Novoye Vremya” 21-23.05.2005
The freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic freedom.
The facts listed below testify to the real threat to the security of journalists and freedom of speech in Azerbaijan: The murder of the editor of ” Monitor ” magazine Elmar Huseynov (on March 2, 2005); the abduction and torture concerning the editor of «Bizim Yol» newspaper, Bahaddin Gaziyev (on May 19, 2006); and beatings of journalists by policemen while performing their professional duties on the eve of the parliamentary (2005) and presidential (2003) elections, where were injured reporters Idrak Abbasov from “Ayna” newspaper, Zaur Rasulzade of «Novoe Vremya» newspaper, Farid Teymurkhanli of “Zerkalo”, Sarvan Rizvanov and Emin Huseynov of “Turan” news agency, the editor of the «Boz Qurd» newspaper Ramiz Najafli and many others. Also regrettable are the numerous legal actions against journalists (the editor of «Milli Yol» newspaper Shahin Agabeyli, editor of «Milletin sesi» newspaper Samir Adigozalov and Fikret Faramazoglu of «24 Saat») and finally the arrest of poet-satirist Mirza Sakit on groundless and unproven accusations of the distribution and the use of drugs.
As the guarantor of citizens’ constitutional rights to the protection of life, health, freedom, and as the upholder of the observance of international obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan in the field of freedom of speech and of the press, you bear the responsibility for the regrettable fact, that none of the criminals responsible for the above listed incidents have been punished as stipulated by law.
We urge you to take the investigation on violence against journalists under your personal control, to contribute to the release of the well-known poet-satirist Sakit Zahidov, and as well to the release of Shahin Agabeyli and Samir Adigozelli, editors-in-chief, who were arrested on the accusation of slander.
As the facts regarding the prosecution of journalists show, one of the pressing questions in Azerbaijan is the question of defamation. This problem will remain unsolved if no correction is made to the legislation. It is necessary to cancel criminal prosecution for defamation. Criminal prosecution for defamation is an inadequate restriction on freedom of expression, which is incompatible with the principles of democratic society, and violates the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of Azerbaijan and by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The existing civil legislation in the field of defamation does not differentiate between such concepts as «information representing the public interest», «information representing a public figure», etc. and thus reduces the degree of protection of journalists covering political and other socially significant themes.
Meanwhile, there also remains the unresolved problem regarding access to information sources. Journalists still face hardships when receiving information from officials within the framework stipulated by the legislation. In regards to this, it is necessary to accept the legislative acts stipulating responsibility for infringement of the law «On Access to Information». The Cabinet has been delaying to submit their proposal of this law to the president for 8 months. Also, it would be expedient to adopt acts on the storage of information, on rules regarding the creation and storage of the Internet resources of the state and municipal bodies, on the provision of judicial responsibility to persons, on refusals to grant information, and on accelerating the electoral process of an authorized person responsible for all matters regarding information policy.
Additionally, the question of the economic independence of mass-media still remains vital. Unfortunately, there is not a favorable business environment for the mass-media in Azerbaijan today. The advertising market, being their basic source of income, is limited and does not allow mass-media and, moreover, the press to acquire the necessary means for development. There are serious problems in the field of printing and distribution of newspapers. The numerous economic problems of the press cannot be solved without intervention by the state and demands the adoption by the government of a program with broad based measures to improve the economic situation of the mass-media.
All of these questions guaranteeing the ability to live by the basic principle of the civil society, i.e. the freedom of speech, are dictated by concern for the public at large and demand your urgent intervention and decisiveness.
Mehman Aliyev, Director of TURAN News Agency
Study of Azerbaijani media market made by TURAN news agency confirmed the earlier drawn conclusions that after abolition of political censorship on August 7, 1998, authorities have decided to establish economic censorship over independent media. This control was aimed at undermining their economic independence and even full annihilation. The measures include rise in prices for newsprint and typographic services, imposing of fines to make media bankrupt and putting obstacles in the way of press distributors. But the most efficient method of suppression of press freedom was taking control over advertisement in media. It is a common knowledge that profit from newspapers and magazines sales does not cover all expenses and about 85% of income media derives from advertisement.
Advertisers are pressured for them no to give advertisement to disloyal to authorities media. Being aware of the fact that they are dependent on officials, advertisers are forced to refuse advertisement to opposition newspapers, irrespective of their circulation, audience and other factors. As a result, many prints deprived of advertisement profit were forced to close or follow authorities’ tastes.
At the same time authorities created their own television companies and did away with several independent television channels, such as BMT, Sara and ABA, well aware of role and importance of television as the most accessible and operative media, which has a great influence on public opinion.
Today electronic media is the main speaking-trumpet of authorities and they cover actually all territory of the country. AzTV channel’s signals are received on 99.9% territory of Azerbaijan and private television channels have between 60 and 80% coverage.
These television channels are owned or patronized by high-ranking officials and these channels receive majority of advertisement funds. This flow increases year by year and by 2004 it reached about $22.1 million, increased threefold against 1998.
Size of section of communication advertisement in Azerbaijan in 2004
Before abolition of censorship in 1998, there was a stable growth of advertisement in prints. Volume of advertisement in prints was 30% more than in electronic media. But situation has absolutely changed after summer 1998. By 2004 volume of advertisement in electronic media was seven times more than in prints. There are real grounds to suppose that this disproportion is artificial. For example, in the U.S. correlation of volume of advertisement in electronic media and prints is 1:1. The former Soviet republics have almost the same correlation.
Size of section of communication advertisement in U.S. in 2004 (according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR)
But in the Baltic countries this correlation is even in favor of prints – 1.3:1
Size of section of communicationadvertisement in Baltic countries in 2004 (according to Margo Veskimagi , Regional Integration Director , TNS Emor , Estonia)
In Russia, which is criticized by the West for suppression of freedom of speech, correlation of volume of advertisement in electronic media and prints is at a reasonable level 1.4:1.
Size of section of communication advertisement in Russia in 2004
Today absolute majority of papers’ editorial offices in Azerbaijan draws profit only from newspapers’ sale and is actually deprived of advertisement funds. Zerkalo and especially Echo, which has more than half of all advertisement placed in newspapers, are an exception here.
Comparison of our indexes in this field with the indexes of other post-Soviet republics proves that we are among outsiders. Only $2.7 of advertisement funds fell per each Azerbaijani citizen in 2004. But according to companies Margo Veskimagi, Regional Integration Director, TNS Emor and Estonia, in the Baltic countries total annual advertisement market was equal to $260.9 million (200 million Euro) and $36.14 (27.78 Euro) fell per capita in these countries. In Russia volume of advertisement market exceeded $3.86 billion and totaled $27.00 per one citizen.
Level of advertisement business development -one of the main criteria of level of development of market relations – visually demonstrates condition of Azerbaijani economy. The newspapers’ circulation also illustrates that. Total annual circulation of prints in Azerbaijan reached 54 million. This means that 6 copies fall per one citizen a year against 61 in U.S. and 59 in Russia.
Considering that share of opposition newspapers in total circulation of prints constitutes almost one fifth, 0.1 opposition or independent newspaper fall per each Azerbaijani citizen a month. 95% population of the country draws information only from television and this means that authorities have established an absolute control over information sector of Azerbaijan. Authorities control public consciousness, manipulate and misinform people.
One can state that suppression of freedom of speech on the threshold of parliamentary elections remains a priority of authorities. Such a policy is contrary to the commitments, which Azerbaijan has undertaken before.
Mehman Aliyev, Director of TURAN News Agency
In the past Azerbaijani officials and a certain fraction of the Azerbaijani society have accused newspapers of violating legal and ethical norms, and called for tougher control over these publications. The logic of such statement is based on the fact that the press is the source of moral and socio-economic problems of the country. The country really is facing a crisis. And this crisis touches the press one way or another. The crisis of the press includes the following aspects:
Advocates of the “independent press” focus on the moral character of the mass media control problem. They sometimes also remember political engagement, but ignore economic and professional sides of the problems. In this case it is more correct to approach the problem from a classical view point – correlation of base and oversight structure.
Let’s start from the base – economy: in the current conditions none of the newspapers in Azerbaijan are able to be economically independent. And this means that they cannot be independent politically or in any other form. It goes without saying that in all countries with an open economy the main source of the press’ income is advertising and incomes from sales. In these countries newspapers receive about 85 percent of their income from advertisements and about 15 percent from newspaper sales. In Azerbaijan, the situation is quite different. The overwhelming majority of newspapers in Azerbaijan do not know what an advertisement is, because they have never placed on their pages.
In countries with an open economy the ratio of advertisement placed in terms of money in the print media vs. the electronic media (television and radio) between 0.5:1 and 1.2:1. However, in Azerbaijan this ratio is almost 1 to 10 in favor of electronic media. It is very difficult to estimate the size of the advertisement market in Azerbaijan, because this market is closed, like most other parts of Azerbaijan’s economy. Analysis of information on the surface shows that the total volume of the advertising market varies is approximately $30 million. This is not enough. In Azerbaijan approximately per capita there is approximately $3.5 of advertising money. In Baltic countries it is an average of $42.00 per capita and in the U.S. $950. There are two reasons for the financial crisis of the Azerbaijani press. The first one is a closed economy. Some characteristics of the economy include a thriving black market, monopolies and government interference in business. Studies show that about 80 percent of trade is conducted on the black market or in sectors that are monopolized, including food products, cellphones, furniture, clothes, etc. In such conditions advertising is seen as a danger to businessmen, because advertising creates transparency and attracts the attention of law enforcement agencies to the activities of businessmen, something absolutely unnecessary in a black market economy. On the other side, many markets are monopolized and monopolies do not need to advertise, because they have no competition.
The second cause of the crisis of the press in Azerbaijan is the political intentions of authorities. On August 7, 1998, under the pressure of the international community, the authorities were forced to abolish political censorship in the media. At that time all publications were able to be economically independent (then the mass media was different, because of its openness, correctness, professionalism, responsibility and moral level). Opposition newspapers were among important financial sources of their parties. The ratio of independent, opposition and governmental newspapers constituted about 1:1:1. Of course, this situation, where the press was under public control, was rather dangerous for the authorities, the activities of which are based on a closed economy and political manipulation. Thus, it was decided to deprive the press of its financial independence and make it economically dependent on itself. The main blow was delivered to the independent press, which enjoyed the population’s confidence. A campaign of economic suppression of the media started at the end of 1998. It included the closure and/or limitation of activities of newspaper distribution firms, a rise the newsprint price, typographic services and newspapers distribution, fines, and, the most important, pressure on firms placing ads in independent and opposition newspapers. This policy continues up to today. Many newspapers have debts. In order to reduce expenses, editorial offices have been forced to cut staff, reduce salaries and decrease the number of pages. Authorities have achieved their aim – the majority of newspapers have passed into their control. The print media in Azerbaijan has turned into but a shadow of what one considers to be a press. The majority newspapers are issued in black-and-white format with low typographic quality, have a circulation of 3,000-5,000 copies a day and are mostly without advertisement, failing to make ends meet. In such a situation the newspapers are forced to take the following steps: receive secret subsidies in exchange for loyalty or to be engaged in extortion. The process of moral degradation of the press mirrors the moral degradation of Azerbaijani society. Today a very dangerous idea of the role and place of the press is being imposed on the Azerbaijani society. It is regarded as a source of unearned income and a manipulation and black PR tool. One more problem is the low circulation of newspapers, due to the low purchasing capabilities of the population. Many people cannot afford to buy even one newspaper at the price of 1,000 manat a day. A poll held in early 2006 in 15 regions and 12 cities of Azerbaijan by the sociological service Pulse-P showed that 43 percent of those polled are ready to buy newspapers, if their incomes increase, and 23 percent will buy if the price of newspapers drops. As in the case of advertisements, here we also deal with the socio-economic problems of society.
In order to resolve the main problem of press development it is necessary first of all create an open and liberal economy and liquidate monopolies. These are tasks to be done in the first stage. Tasks to be carried out in the second stage include encouraging advertising or exempting advertisements from taxes, introduction of product’s cost price into its structure and the abolition of any restrictions on advertisement. As an urgent and radical measure for the first five years it is necessary to introduce obligatory advertising quotas for all juridical economic ventures of at least 1 percent of their total annual income. In order not to burden businessmen, it is necessary to reduce profit tax from 24 percent to 23 percent. The remaining 1 percent should be spent on press advertisements. In 2005 the total official profit tax for ell economic subjects throughout the country totaled 1 trillion 777 billion manat ($376 million). If 1 percent of this figure was allocated for press advertisements, it would have totaled 74 billion manat or $16 million. This would not have been burdensome for the state budget. According to the estimates of specialists, $1 invested in advertisement will bring an additional profit of between $2 and $300. In this case, the incomes of both businessmen and the budget will increase. In the first year newspapers will derive a sufficient profit from advertisements. All these measures will lead to dynamic development of the non-oil sector, the formation of a liberal economy, the growth of advertising culture, the recovery of the press and its evolution from a political instrument into a commercial one. With such an approach in the coming two years, newspapers’ advertising profits could reach $30-100 million a year. Free and open financial flows will impel newspapers to compete for the reader, which is the main object of interest both for the press and advertising accounts. The financial recovery of newspapers will lead to increased quality of the product and the professional level of journalists.
Some other measures could be taken in parallel to this process, which also could lead to moral recovery and to increasing the responsibility of both the media and all sections of society, part of which manipulates public opinion and another which is the object of manipulation. It is not difficult to get noticeable results in this direction – it is just necessary to achieve adherence to the laws on media, television and professional ethic code of Azerbaijani journalists. In this case, interference of the president, who is guardian of the laws and the interests of citizens, cannot be avoided. Interference could be the following:
1. The Azerbaijani President, as a guarantor of Constitution, urges all media to adhere to the Constitution, the laws on television and radio broadcast and media, and other laws, as well as the code of journalistic ethics.
1. The President requests the National Television and Radio Council and Press Council to take all required measures to monitor mass media to prevent the violation of legislation and journalistic ethics.
3. The President declares that all technical and material obstacles be eliminated to carry out the monitoring.
4. While executing presidential decrees, the Television and Radio Broadcast and Press Councils will conduct daily monitoring of the media to warn them about violations and in the case of repetition or the ignoring of recommendations to take measures within the framework of their powers, to punish those to blame and even suspend the activities of some media institutions. These two organs also should publish monthly reports about the observation of laws and the professional ethics of the mass media.
In order to raise the efficiency of work of the Press Council, as the main institution able to affect improvement of moral and professional level of the press, it’s necessary to take several measures. As practice shows, the measures taken by Press Council to prevent the violation of laws and the professional ethical code of journalists (reconciliation of the sides, reprimanding and sending the complainants’ case to the court) do not bring desirable results. This is mostly connected with the fact that the Press Council is forced to react to violations after the event, because it lacks premises to hold daily regular monitoring and to take preventive measures. It would be unjust and incorrect to demand any productive activities from the Press Council without the elimination of these technical problems.
Only through the application of these ideas and other preventive measures limiting newspapers’ opportunities to violate legislation, can the problem could be successfully resolved.
The following measures are proposed:
1. The Press Council will carry out daily monitoring of newspapers to check observance of legislation by them. The monitoring results:
a) weekly (in some cases operative) notification of newspapers about their violations;
b) monthly reports about newspapers’ adherence to the professional ethic principle. This will be presented in the form of a chart with the number and character of violations;
c) after warning the newspapers about violations three times, the Press Council will initiate the consideration of these violations in court. In order to realize this right such a power must be introduced into the Press Council regulations.
2. It is desirable to create a mass media court, capable of making competent decisions and to put the court under the supervision of civil institutions and representatives on information matters in order to avoid abuses.
It is necessary to envisage the obligatory administration of complaints about newspapers in the Press Council and only then in the court.
In the case of regular violations of the law and the code of journalist ethics, the editor must be deprived of the right to head a media organ for five years.
3. Citizens without a journalism education must be prohibited from editorial activities.
People without education must receive a complete journalism education and people with high non-journalism educations must receive corresponding high journalism education (1-2 years) in a specialized educational institution. This condition must be included into the law on mass media.
4. The majority of the newspapers, about which complaints are lodged to Press Council about for the violation of legislation and the ethics code are registered not as juridical, but as physical subjects. They are financed not from bank accounts, but from unknown sources, they do not close contracts with journalists, they do not have an official staff, their journalists work mostly as freelancers, and although all of them have certificates of permanent employers and requisites they are indicated incorrectly. All of these facts prove that such newspapers are created for selfish ends: to derive illegal income through extortion or to be used as a tool to discredit certain people, groups and organizations. For this reason it is proposed to oblige state agencies to register mass media only as juridical persons with all rights and commitments that this encompasses.
While summarizing the conclusions and recommendations, I would like to mention that it is impossible to achieve improvement of the quality of Azerbaijan’s press and eliminate many negative aspects without the political will of people responsible for the fate of the country, owing to their duties. The way to recover and develop the press lies in liberal economy, supremacy of the law and the creation of equal conditions for members of the whole business community, part of which is press. It is impossible to resolve the problem without a complex approach.
September 29, 2006