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Question: Seymur bey, the results of the competition announced by the Media Development Agency on January 19 within the project to support online media entities (websites) were announced. At the same time, the results of the competition announced within the project to support print media entities were also announced. According to the results of the competition, funds will be allocated to 39 websites and 16 newspapers. The SSFMMD was abolished, the Media Development Agency was established. But the tradition has not changed. Why do you think so? What is the purpose?
Answer: Yes, the tradition has not changed because the goal is not to develop the media but to keep it under pressure, as in previous years. While the SSFMMD only provided assistance to newspapers, MEDIA has already added online media platforms to the list. To date, no newspaper financed by the SSFMMD has been able to develop. It is unfortunate that in addition to continuing this bad tradition, it has also been extended to online media outlets.
Question: How much money has been allocated for the development of the media so far and what are the results?
Answer: A total of AZN 40 million has been allocated during the existence of the SSFMMD. A significant part of this happened before the February 2015 devaluation. If you remember, at that time, AZN was the same value as Euro. Apparently, sufficient financial support has been allocated to the print media. Among them is the construction of three buildings for journalists. So much money, buildings, awards, banquets and awards in restaurants did not save the media. The MEDIA has twice allocated funds. We have not seen anything positive.
Question: At a time when the discussion of the draft law on media is still ongoing, the allocation of funds to websites and newspapers has not been unequivocally welcomed. And almost all of the funded websites and newspapers are websites and newspapers that support the adoption of the draft law in these discussions, the position of the MEDIA Agency. What is the result?
Answer: A duty of loyalty or a debt of gratitude arises. Whatever you name it. It does not matter whether the draft law is discussed or not. The practice of money distribution, which had a bad and negative impact, should not be returned. And they can stop it now. These websites know very well that if they do not support the draft law, they will stay away from finance. This shows how dependent the media is on government bodies.
Question: Where do funded websites or newspapers spend the money? Is there accountability and transparency in this matter?
Answer: To date, we have not seen reports from media outlets receiving financial assistance. I do not know whether they reported to the SSFMMD back in the days or report to the MEDIA now, but there is no transparency. The allocated funds are budget funds, and we have a right to know what X newspaper did with the funds allocated to it. Suppose that 1-2 times there were additions to the salaries and benefits of employees working there. Very nice. Then what? What has been done for the development of the media entity? We do not know because there are no reports.
Question: Should websites and newspapers be supported in any way by the state? Is there a practice in the world for the state to allocate money to websites and newspapers?
Answer: There is such an experience in the world - in France, Sweden, etc. In 2013, VAT on the sale of newspapers in Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom was abolished. There is nothing unusual here. States provide financial assistance to the media in a nondiscriminatory manner. The goal is not to make the media dependent on it but to further develop the competitive environment and promote the advertising market. In Azerbaijan, financial support to the press, as we have already said, is assessed in the context of a duty of loyalty or a debt of gratitude.
Question: Instead of allocating funds for the self-sufficiency of websites and newspapers, what should be done so that they do not become needy and a burden to the state?
Answer: Freedom, financial independence, healthy competitive environment, non-monopolization of the advertising market, non-harassment and non-pressure of journalists. The most important thing is to prepare a draft law on the media in accordance with the standards of journalism, to put forward work that supports the development of the media and meets democratic standards.