Baku, Azerbaijan, May 31
After Azerbaijan's gaining independence, ensuring the freedom of expression and media, creation of independent media outlets has always been in the limelight of the state as one of the main directions of creating a civil society and democratization process, said Ali Hasanov, the Azerbaijani president's aide for public and political affairs.
He made the remarks addressing the roundtable discussions on the joint project of the European Union and the Council of Europe on "Freedom of expression and freedom of media" in Baku May 31.
Hasanov said that Azerbaijan's 1995 constitution reflects the relevant norms, adding that the censorship was abolished in the country in 1998 in accordance with the decree of the National Leader Heydar Aliyev.
The top official pointed out that the legislative framework was improved and brought in line with the international standards in order to ensure the freedom of media.
The media palette has been fully formed in Azerbaijan, according to Hasanov.
"Azerbaijan's law ensures everyone's right to freely search, receive and spread information," the top official added.
Hasanov pointed out that Azerbaijan closely cooperates with the OSCE and the Council of Europe in developing the democratic norms and building a civil society.
The joint project of the European Union and the Council of Europe on "Freedom of expression and freedom of media" holds a special place, he said, adding that the draft laws "On defamation" were worked out as an initiative in 2005, 2011 and 2013.
Hasanov said that a one-time financial aid was allocated to editorial offices of newspapers and news agencies and measures were taken to strengthen the social protection of journalists in accordance with the orders and decrees of Azerbaijan's president.
The "Concept for State support for the development of media in Azerbaijan" was worked out in 2008 at the initiative of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and the State Fund for Support of Mass Media Development under the President of Azerbaijan was created in 2009, said the president's aide.
The top official recalled that in 2009, Azerbaijan's president said it is inexpedient to hold the media criminally liable for the journalistic activities and defamation cases.
Meanwhile, removing the relevant articles from the Criminal Code deprives the citizens who are not involved in journalistic activities of the opportunity to protect their rights, honor and dignity, said the top official.
"Those articles still remain in the legislation of the majority of the EU member states, including the leading countries," said Hasanov. "When coming to their non-application, there is a similar situation in Azerbaijan as well."
The top official pointed out that on Dec.27, 2011, Azerbaijan's president approved the National Program for Action to Raise Effectiveness of the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in Azerbaijan and that program included a paragraph on adopting the law "On defamation".
The Press Council of Azerbaijan declared 2010 the Year of Defamation in Azerbaijan, journalism organizations put forward various initiatives regarding the law "On defamation" and draft laws were worked out with OSCE's support and submitted to Azerbaijan's parliament, he added.
"Although in 2013, Azerbaijan worked out a relevant draft law and submitted to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for examination, it became impossible to adopt the law due to the disagreements on a number of issues," said Hasanov.
Adoption of the law "On defamation" in Azerbaijan is not a finished issue, he said, adding that consistent work was carried out on this project.