The OSCE Office in Baku today welcomed President Ilham Aliyev's decision to cancel the debts of newspapers, including leading opposition publications, to the State publishing house Azerbaijan, accumulated as of 31 December 2005, the statement by Ambassador Maurizio Pavesi, the Head of the Baku Office, read. The debts, totalling 350,000 euros, will now be paid from the State budget. "I commend this initiative, aimed at strengthening the independent press in Azerbaijan," said Ambassador Pavesi. "Economic independence is essential for the media to act as a genuine watchdog and catalyst for democracy."
Ambassador Pavesi also emphasized the need for further steps to be taken in order to achieve a healthy media environment in Azerbaijan, saying: "Our Office invites all interested sides to work together to tackle the remaining constraints on media freedom in Azerbaijan."