Switzerland, Geneva, May 2 / Trend O. Sattarov, E. Mehdiyev /
Azerbaijan has taken consistent actions during the years of independence to ensure freedom of expression and information, to improve material-technical base of the media, to strengthen social protection of journalists, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Social and Political Department Chief Ali Hasanov said at the workshop, held at the headquarters of the European Broadcasting Union in Geneva today, Trend Agency's special correspondent reported.
"Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev started his activity in 1993 on the basis of these four principles," he said.
"The main artificial barriers that limited pluralism, freedom of speech and information have been eliminated over the years," he said.
"We began adopting the legislative acts regulating the activity of the media and the process of standardization of the legislation in Europe," he said. "The censorship in the press was abolished by Azerbaijani President's decree on August 6, 1998."
"Then, the practical activity began to ensure the development of mass media, international rights and civil norms, freedom of speech, information and thought," he said.
The ministry of press and information was liquidated in Azerbaijan in 2000.
"Only Azerbaijan and Georgia in the post-Soviet area do not have the Ministry of Press and Information. All other countries have this ministry," Hasanov noted. "There was certain gap in Azerbaijan's journalism after the Ministry of Press and Information was liquidated where norms of journalism must be prepared, the basic codes must be formed. They must include the issues of the bodies which must carry out public control over the journalists, the bodies where journalists must complain and the bodies which must solve the problems related to the life of a journalist. The discussions led to the fact that the Azerbaijani journalists united and held a congress in 2003. The Press Council existing today was established there."
"The Azerbaijani government refused from any mechanism to influence the media after the Press Council was established," he said. "By cooperating with the Council of Europe in 2002, Azerbaijan developed and adopted a new law on "Television and Radio Broadcasting" corresponding to the international standards."
Hasanov said Public Television was created in the country in accordance with the obligations to the Council of Europe.
"I would like to especially emphasize that the Day of Azerbaijani national press have been celebrated since 2000 at the state level, and the State provides grants for every organ of print. Azerbaijan - the only country in the former Soviet Union, where the government is building apartments for the journalists who had been working at the press for years. They will receive these apartments next year free of charges. Concept of state support for media development in Azerbaijan was adopted and a special fund was established in accordance with the order of the President of Azerbaijan on July 30, 2008. Each year, the fund provides assistance to hundreds of journalists in the frame of the journalistic competitions, awards prizes and grants to organs of the press," he said.
He added that currently pluralism is formed in the field of media and electronic media that meets international standards.
"Presently, there are nine nationwide TV channels, satellite television, 14 regional and 14 cable TV channels and 14 radio channels in Azerbaijan. In 2005 "CJSC The television and radio programs of Azerbaijan" was created on the basis of the Azerbaijani State Television. That same year Public Television and radio broadcasts have been established in Azerbaijan," Hasanov said.
"We have enough problems. I would like to bring two major problems to your attention. One of them - is that the area of the independent media is not on the level for us, it must be expanded. We need to gradually expand the circle of free media. Second - we need to improve professionalism of journalists, because while expanding the circle of free media, society, state, nation and all sectors of society suffers due to the non-professional journalists."
"We are now in anticipation of adoption of the defamation law. I want to thank all the media organizations with regard to the fact that they took part in all discussions of the OSCE and NGOs, and we have prepared such a bill. President of Azerbaijan has demonstrated the will to adopt this law. But we are waiting for a response from journalists. All journalists should adopt a unified ethics code of journalists," Hasanov said.
"The journalist can be released from criminal liability only if he understands his responsibility and is subject to the public in accordance with a common code of ethics. I suppose that after today's dialogue, we will continue our activities in this area. We are open to criticism, willing to accept and consider all constructive suggestions, and we want to see Azerbaijan as part of Europe, and the Azerbaijani society - as part of a democratic society in Europe. Of course, it is difficult to establish a democracy and a pluralistic political environment in 20 years, which Europe has been building for centuries," Hasanov said.
"Our mentality should also be taken into account. We must improve the professionalism and responsibility of our journalists. Of course, it is our desire. Europe has been doing this for 200 years and has achieved particular success," he said.