Mehman Aliyev: The crisis in Azerbaijan is because free media are muffled

May 5 marks the 30th anniversary of the Turan news agency. In an interview with VOA, the head of the agency, Mehman Aliyev, spoke about the new challenges during the pandemic and the state of the media in Azerbaijan.

Problems of the day

“In general, we have entered an interesting period. For 30 years Turan agency  undergone permanent changes, crises in different areas of the country, and for 30 years we have been fighting in this situation together with this country and society ... Now we see, for example, that the fight against corruption has begun, a new stage,  and some people are arrested. It is very interesting what is behind this. Recently, we discussed Khudafarin. We also wrote about this. Now I am preparing to write an article about it. That is, despite we are 30 year old, the situation is the same, the same tension, the same changes, everything changes very quickly, and I think that we are also changing. ”

There was no objective information about Azerbaijan

The impetus for the creation of Turan was the events of January 20, 1990, while I worked at the state agency Azerinform (current AzerTAC), a TASS branch in Azerbaijan. In addition, I worked in the military legal department and saw everything that was happening. That is, I have witnessed many events. In protest against the deployment of Soviet troops and the committed crimes, I left the agency.  I think no other journalist except me in the media resigned. I did this, realizing that it is necessary to create an independent media in Azerbaijan, that is, we cannot achieve anything through these information channels controlled by Moscow. Then, you know, the Karabakh events had already begun, the democratic movement and the world were interested in what was happening here.  For us it was important that objective information from Azerbaijan itself reflect the truth. The task was to deliver true information to the international community. For example, unfortunately, the United States supported Gorbachev’s actions in Baku. From across the ocean they spoke of some kind of Islamic terrorists, Islamic radicals, although this was not so in Azerbaijan. There was no such situation. Unfortunately, the information about the situation in Azerbaijan, as I understand it, was not so accurate, that is, there was not any. Interpretations of events were presented by Moscow, and therefore there were such reactions. This gave impetus to the creation of Turan. That is where it all started. "

My arrest was the logical consequence of the campaign against Turan

“The worst event, of course, was my arrest in 2017 and the decision made by the authorities to destroy Turan. Because for many years they either wanted to take us under control, or, threatening, wanted to shut us down. It always has been, and we worked under pressure. In the end, they took this step. I do not think we deserve it. But I was very glad that public and international support, and, above all, of course, the United States, in these matters was so great that we were able to continue our work today ...

In fact, the attempt to close Turan was a logical consequence of the government’s long-standing policy regarding the media, against the free media ... Someone was disabled, many were bribed, others were driven into a crisis state and forced to close. Many newspapers closed. Some left the country. Washington called Turan the last fortress of freedom, the last independent news agency in Azerbaijan. This is how they see us. In fact, this was the case. Representatives of the authorities spoke to me on the eve of the arrest; they made proposals, very good proposals of a high level: "let's create the conditions, and we will work together." I refused, saying, "This country, this state, needs independent media." That is, I cannot accept the offer; I will never go for it. In response, it was decided to disable Turan. In fact, the government is annoyed and worried when they tell the truth. They do not need truth, objectivity. I want to note that, in Azerbaijan, not the opposition, but the independent media were defeated. This was because the audience of independent media is wider and covers all sectors, while the opposition has only a certain protest electorate.

Society and Media

“I have already said that if we want to change something in society, we must start with the media. All reforms, all changes, I would even say, successes, successful decisions, and it all starts with freedom of the media. Because freedom of speech is the fundamental foundation of society, and it all starts here. If there is no freedom of speech, then there is no freedom in general. I have repeatedly said that crises in Azerbaijan occur because there are no free media in the country, no free society. That is, if they were, then there would be interaction with the government, there would be control over the government; there would be the responsibility of the government. If we do not restore freedom, we can never get out of these crises. Because, again, voluntarist decisions, wrong steps will be taken, and society will not be involved in the construction process. Society is reckoned only when it takes to the streets in protest and makes demands. Therefore, I personally believe that serious changes will occur in Azerbaijan at a time when the government will propose a plan to create free media as an institution. I don’t see this yet."

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İran Prezidentinin həlak olduğu hadisə Azərbaycan- İran münasibətlərinə təsir edə bilərmi? – Nəsimi Məmmədli Çətin sualda

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