In Senator Dick Durbin’s office, Washington, December 2017

In Senator Dick Durbin’s office, Washington, December 2017

Key U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a leading voice for protecting human rights around the world, highlighted the role of a free media on occasion of the 30th anniversary of Turan News Agency.

“During a global pandemic, the role of a free and independent media is even more important. This is even more the case in countries where autocrats try to use the pandemic to stifle freedom of the press," Sen. Durbin said in a statement to Turan's Washington correspondent.

"Turan's 30th anniversary is a moment to reaffirm its role in helping the Azerbaijani people realize a more democratic system," the Senator added.

The story of Turan, the first independent news agency in the Soviet Union, goes back to 1990, when Azerbaijan was still a part of the Communist empire. The agency was born in May by a group of journalists who refused to work in the state media.

Over the years, Turan has been able to develop into a major news source for the wider Caucasus region, bridging ethnic, cultural, and linguistic divides between audiences that often have limited access to local and regional news, especially on politically sensitive subjects such as human rights and corruption.

But it also came with a high price, given that press freedom has been severely curtailed in Azerbaijan in recent years.

Being the last remained independent news agency of Azerbaijan, Turan has often been targeted by authorities. The agency was briefly shut down in 2017, following the arrest of its founder and longtime head Mehman Aliyev, a move that stirred a storm of reaction both international and domestic.

M.Aliyev was released shortly after Senator Dick Durbin introdused an amendment into the FY2018 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill proposing sanctions against the Azerbaijani officials involved in his arrest.

Richard Kauzlarich, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, told Turan's Washington correspondent that Turan’s success "depends on the hard work and dedication of journalists who are prepared to take risks to ensure that this voice of independent media in Azerbaijan is heard."

“As the world focuses on the impact of the coronavirus on our individual lives and our societies, it is too easy to overlook celebrating the good news. In this case I want to congratulate Turan News Agency on its 30th anniversary... Keep up the excellent work,” he added.

Alex Raufoglu

Washington D.C.


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