Miklos Haraszti's epoch finish for Azerbaijan in 2010: Trend News Commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva

Miklos Haraszti's epoch finish for Azerbaijan in 2010: Trend News Commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva

Trend European Desk Commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva

In March 2010, OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Miklos Haraszti will leave his post due to the end of his tenure. Over the past five years, after Haraszti took office, the Hungarian journalist and human rights activist has taken an ambiguous stance on Azerbaijan, by criticizing official Baku for restricting freedom of speech in the country.

The issue is not that there is an ideal situation with the freedom of speech in Azerbaijan. Statehood includes a considerable number of problems, including freedom of the media. But Haraszti's obvious criticism of Azerbaijan and apparent disregard for facts that have occurred in other countries in the post-Soviet space surprises.

Does the situation with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan differ from the situation in Georgia or Armenia? Hardly. Then why do the number of official press releases lambasting Azerbaijan during his tenure exceed the number of those in other countries of the South Caucasus?

This article is not an appeal to Haraszti to ignore events in Azerbaijan and focus on facts in other countries. This is just a request about objectivity to the office of the OSCE on freedom.

About 20 negative press releases on Azerbaijan were published by Haraszti's office from 2004-2009, whereas there were five on Armenia, and one on Georgia.

We are not saying that all 20 press releases on Azerbaijan were false and unfounded. But it is difficult to believe that the situation with freedom of speech in Armenia and Georgia is so close to the ideal as it may seem from these statistics.

The question is why Haraszti has chosen Azerbaijan as the main target of criticism.

It should be noted that Georgia has only been sent one critical press release from the OSCE during Haraszti's tenure. There were many reasons to recall freedom of speech during the above-mentioned period. Several TV channels were closed when Haraszti took office in Georgia. Journalists have been repeatedly harassed. Censorship was introduced in October 2007.

The situation was demonstrative when famous Georgian political analyst, information holding Georgian Times head Malkhaz Gulashvili made the following statement due to threats to his family. He said he took an unprecedented decision for the first time in 17 years of uninterrupted work at the Georgian Times. The Georgian edition has suspended its activity. The myth of press freedom in Georgia is under a question.

As to Armenia, it is impossible to say that the level of freedom of speech in this country differs substantially from other post-Soviet states. In January 2009, a Freedom House report stressed that regress was noted in Armenia in terms of democratic freedoms.

The document states that 2008 was the biggest crisis period for political and civil freedoms after the country gained independence. The reports says violence committed against journalists by law enforcement agencies has increased.

Previously, Amnesty International issued a statement expressing concern about the situation in Armenia after the March 2008 events. Amnesty International points to the beatings of journalists during the presidential elections and post-election period, and damaging media property.

Does it mean that all the activities durring Haraszti's tenure over the last five years were aimed at only finding problems in Azerbaijan while ignoring the situation in other countries? Or are the OSCE employees who are watching the situation in our country more zealously fulfilling their duties than observers on other countries?

And the main question is whether the policy of the OSCE office on freedom of the media will change after Haraszti's dismissal.

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