Azerbaijan to continue efforts to strengthen media independence (UPDATE)

Azerbaijan to continue efforts to strengthen media independence (UPDATE)

Details added (first version posted on 14:59)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 25

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Azerbaijani government will continue efforts to strengthen the independence of the media, Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani president's aide for public and political affairs, said.

He made the remarks Dec.25 speaking at a ceremony devoted to awarding of winners of journalistic essays, the World Azerbaijanis' Solidarity Day and the New Year.

He said that the year 2015 was successful for the national press and the media of Azerbaijan in general, which stayed in memory by significant events.

"Thanks to further development of freedom of expression and information, the foundations of which were laid by the national leader Heydar Aliyev, comprehensive state support for the free media activity, qualitative and quantitative indicators of national information resources further improved, they were able to expand their audiences and scope, having become active participants of the international information space," Hasanov said.

He said that the development issues of the Azerbaijani media outlets have always been in the center of attention of President Ilham Aliyev, who always treated their problems with a special responsiveness and provided the necessary support for the comprehensive development of the media.

Hasanov went on to add that over 5,000 media outlets have been registered in Azerbaijan. More than 50 TV and radio channels, 300 periodicals, over 100 magazines, dozens of news agencies, journalists' organizations, broadcasters, more than 300 active websites operate in the country.

"In accordance with the presidential decree "On the 140th anniversary of Azerbaijani National Press" dated June 2, 2015, a plan of action to hold jubilee events in connection with the 140th anniversary of Azerbaijani national press was approved," he said. "Regional conferences were held in Azerbaijan's Zardab, Masalli, Gabala, Guba districts and Ganja city in accordance with the plan of action."

"In addition, the Baku State University, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as district and municipal executive authorities organized conferences in connection with the 140th anniversary of the national press," he said.

Ali Hasanov said that in accordance with the presidential decree, the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan has received about 800 appeals from the editorial and journalistic organizations in connection with awarding of media employees.

"As many as 180 media employees received various state awards and honorary degrees for services in development of the Azerbaijani national press in accordance with the presidential decree dated July 15, 2015," he said.

"Two of them were awarded a personal presidential pension of Azerbaijan, one - the order "For Service to the Motherland" of the second degree, four - the order "For Service to the Motherland" of the third degree, 44 people - the honorary title "Honored Journalist", 17 people - the honorary title "Honored Worker of Culture", 91 people - "Tereggi"("Progress") medal and 21 people - Honorary Diploma of the President of Azerbaijan," Hasanov said.

"The awards were presented at a ceremony held at the Gulustan Palace July 22," he said. "Furthermore, media employees were awarded valuable gifts of the State Support for Media Development Fund under the President of Azerbaijan, the Press Council of Azerbaijan and other companies."

"On July 21, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received members of the board of the Press Council of Azerbaijan and made an extensive speech," said Hasanov. "The head of state focused on the path of development the Azerbaijani press went through, shared valuable judgments in connection with the state support for the media development, the existing problems and their solution."

The top official said that media representatives actively participated in Azerbaijan's parliamentary election held Nov.1, 2015, adding that many of them nominated their candidacies and 11 of them were elected MPs.

"The State Fund for Support of Mass Media Development under the President of Azerbaijan continued its support to media outlets and 34 editorial offices received great financial assistance," said Hasanov.

Moreover, on the occasion of Novruz holiday, National Press Day and New Year, the Fund held three and jointly with other state bodies - eight essay contests among journalists and hundreds of journalists were awarded with cash prizes.

The top official pointed out that the legislative framework regulating the operation of media outlets was improved and the country continued measures to further develop the freedom of expression and information, strengthen the independence of media outlets and their material and technical base.

"Work has been done in line with a decree of Azerbaijan's president to prepare documents for a 156-apartment building for journalists, and on Dec. 24, the journalists were handed over relevant privatization documents," he said.

Hasanov also said that construction of a 256-apartment building for journalists is underway.

"Those apartments are planned to be given to journalists in 2016," he added.

The president's aide also said that freedom of speech and information is an important component of civil society building in Azerbaijan, adding that in the next stage the Azerbaijani government will continue efforts to strengthen the media independence.

"But the media shouldn't allow the abuse of the created favorable conditions, they should be more professional, responsible, and make valuable contribution to developing Azerbaijani society and settling nation-wide issues," noted Hasanov.

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