Azerbaijan, Baku / Тrend corr I. Alizadeh / The freedom of speech and press is under the control of the State, the head of the Social and Political Department of the Azerbaijani President's Administration, Ali Hasanov, stated while giving his views towards the discussions on the state of press in Azerbaijan held at the US Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (Helsinki Commission) on 2 August.
"Azerbaijani authorities are the guarantor of freedom of speech and press. Institutes and press organisations involved in this field function freely. So, there is no reason to be concerned," Hasanov added. He noted that even if somebody regarded the imprisonment of several journalists for their articles and other activities either as a violation of freedom of speech and press in Azerbaijan or as pressure upon the media field, this is still not a cause for worry. "We believe the situation in this field will gradually improve and the Azerbaijani Government is doing its best in that direction," Hasanov stressed.
During yesterday's discussions at Helsinki Commission it was noted that the harsh measures undertaken in Azerbaijan against the media has caused concern. Control over electronic media in the country is ever increasing. The Chairman of Helsinki Commission, US Congressman Alsy Gastings, noted during the discussions on 'Freedom of Speech in OSCE Region' that currently seven journalists were jailed in Azerbaijan, media representatives had been physically oppressed, and journalists had been fined. Due to unbearable situation in Azerbaijani press, a total of 20 Azerbaijani journalists have applied for asylum abroad.
Hasanov noted that Baku will not be removing the article stipulating punishment for slander and abuse from the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan.
It was noted during the discussions that journalists in several OSCE countries have been threatened whilst fulfilling their professional activities, including kidnapping, slaughter, threats and even murder.
The discussions were attended by the Congressmen of the US Chamber of Representatives, Mike McIntyre, Josef Pits, Christopher Smith, and Hilda Solis.
The state of press in the OSCE region, including Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, was also discussed at the meeting.
Helsinki Commission is a governmental organization of the United States controlling the execution of regulations of the Helsinki Document. The Commission includes 9 members of the Senate, the Chamber of Representatives, and one member of the US State Department, US Defence Ministry, and US Trade Ministry.