Vügar Səfərli

Vügar Səfərli

In July 2008, President Aliyev approved by his decree the concept of state support to the media, on the basis of which the State Support Fund for the Development of Mass Media (shortly , the Fund) under the President of Azerbaijan was established.

The initiative to create such a structure came from the editors of the leading media, who hoped, therefore, to direct the state media policy in a constructive way, and create the conditions for the formation of financial self-sufficiency, and at the same time, the quality and responsibility of the press.

What are the successes and failures of the State Fund over the incomplete 10 years of its work? On January 8, a representative of the Turan agency visited the Fund's office to interview the executive director of the Fund, Vugar Safarli, to ask this and other questions. V.Safarli was in his office, the secretary reported on the visit of the correspondent Turan, but the head of the Fund responsible for the development of journalism did not leave his office, and his secretary said that V. Safarli never gives an interview to anybody. The deputy director, who is also responsible for communication with the press, also refused to answer questions.

The website of the Foundation http://kivdf.gov.az contains the concept of the work of this public and non-profit organization, approved by the president. In the third chapter, devoted to the principles and forms of state support for the media, the concept of "transparency" is listed in the second place after "legality". Safarli violated both principles at once, denying the journalist the right to receive information about the activities of the Fund, and thereby making it non-transparent to the public. Safarli refused to ask the question about the expenditure of five million manat allocated to the Fund by the president in 2017. We wanted to ask the question because of accusations against the Foundation from the editorial staff of the newspaper Hurriyet, which published an open letter on January 5 to the President and the First Vice President of Azerbaijan, in which the editor-in-chief of the publication, V. Mamedov, requests an audience to inform the leaders of the state of the facts of corruption in the Fund support of the media.

The newspaper believes that the budget allocated for financial support to the media is spent by the Foundation incorrectly and unfairly. "The cash you have allocated (for the development of the media in the country - Turan) are used for other purposes, and are assigned to 3-5 people," the Hurriyet newspaper said.

Doubts about the legality of the Fund's activities were written and said in the Azerbaijani press a lot, especially in connection with the construction and distribution of apartments in two multi-story houses for journalists. The website of Palitika.Az published articles on corruption in the Fund, supervised by the head of the socio-political department of the Presidential Administration, Ali Hasanov. (http://palitika.az/xeber/1600-qara-mnd-qoz-var-v-ya-vuqar-sfrlinin-ozunu-ifa-edn-ikayt-mktubu.html).

The publication of another media tells of violations of the principle of supporting journalists in the distribution of apartments in a house built for them. The apartments were received by people who do not work as journalists and do not need state assistance (https://www.24saat.org/ev-alan-saxta-jurnalistlərin-siyahisi-vuqar-səfərlinin-katibə-ev-verib-137233.html).

The article of the closed Azadlig newspaper affirms that 15 apartments in the first house for journalists are given to drivers and secretaries (https://storage.googleapis.com/qurium/azadliq.info/197526.html).

In the fifth chapter of the above-mentioned concept (the field of state support for the development of the media), the following lines are listed in separate lines:

- Support of civil society, the construction of a rule-of-law state;

- Support for freedom of opinion, speech and dissemination of information, development of pluralism;

- Support for the protection of human rights and freedoms, the rights of citizens, the development of the level of political culture, the strengthening of social and political activity.

However, over the 10 years that have passed since the set up of the Foundation, this organization has not helped to improve the situation at least on one of the listed points of the concept. The newspapers Azadliq, Ayna-Mirror, Hurriyet and others were closed, the first private Azerbaijani channel ANS ceased to exist. In Azerbaijan, media sites are blocked and continue to be blocked, the number of which is growing.

Instead of developing and implementing various concepts and programs aimed at ensuring economic self-sufficiency, the professional level of the media, the formation of an effective information policy of the state, the creation of a consensus between journalists and the state on the development of the media on the basis of internationally recognized professional ethical standards, the Fund engaged in a primitive allocation of grants and apartments, carrying out of anything not binding measures.

No initiatives have been implemented at the state level to alleviate the financial burden of all media, without exception.

The advertising market, which was to develop and stimulate the Fund, continued to deteriorate steadily - from 28,735,632 manats ($ 25 million) in 2006 to 14,675,000 manats ($ 8,621,190) in 2016.

In the whole14.675.000 ($8. 621.190)
TV8.036.000 ($4 720.950)
Radio1.479.000 ($868.870)
Internet1.247.000 ($732.580)
Newspapers and magazines1.400.000 ($87.530)

The share of media advertising market in GDP was 0.02% at the international rate of 1%. This is the lowest figure for the last 10 years. In 2005, this indicator was at the level of 0.14%.

The system of private distributors of the printed press has collapsed in the country, although several such companies competed actively in Azerbaijan in the 1990s. However, over the past 10 years, the number of kiosks has decreased by as much, that Azerbaijan has seriously lagged behind the indicator of newsstands not only among developed countries. For example, in Europe there are one kiosk for 1500 people, in Russia - one for 4,500, in Azerbaijan - one for 20,000.Today, newsstands sell more cigarettes, hygiene pads, toys and insoles for shoes, but periodicals.

If in the world there is an evolutionary development of print and electronic media in favor of Internet media, then traditional media and the Internet, no evolution, are disintegrated in Azerbaijan. On the ubiquitous degradation of media is shown by indicators of the advertising market, which is the main, and almost the only source of income.

As a result, instead of creating conditions for media self-regulation based on professional and ethical values ​​and principles, state structures are forced to engage in "regulation" of the press through non-productive ones: stricter legislation in the field of freedom of speech and press, trials, arrests, blocking of websites, closure of media. Basically, all the functions of interaction between the state and the media are transferred to law enforcement structures. In this case, the question arises: Why then does the Foundation and its colleague the Press Council need?

The consequence of this "policy of media development" from the side of the Fund has become Azerbaijan's constantly shameful rank in the annual "press freedom" ratings. For example, in 2016 our country ranked 163 (Georgia - 64, Armenia - 74 places).

Probably, if Vugar Safarli meet and answered Turan's questions, he would bring the facts of the tireless activity of the Foundation he leads. The website of the organization provides extensive information on the Fund's ongoing conferences, trainings, collective trips of journalists to Turkey, construction and distribution of housing for journalists, contests for the best publications, financial assistance to the media, etc. But Safarli did not answer the questions, and the facts point to serious shortcomings in the activity of the State Support Fund for the Development of Mass Media under the President of Azerbaijan.

We asked questions Vugar Mammadov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Hurriyet, closed by the editorial board's decision on January 5 this year. In 2008, when the "Vugar Safarli" Foundation appeared, the newspaper"s circulation was 2,500 copies (the Yeni Musavat newspaper in those years published about 20,000 copies, now about 5,000). V.Mammadov names the Fund for Support of Media Development and the Press Council as the main culprit of closing the newspaper (before Aflatun Amashev). According to the editor, the Press Council has turned into a body protecting the interests of officials, not journalists. Together with the Support Fund, the Council deals with the selective exclusion of certain editorial offices from the list of free apartments. It is done this way: for a month, an unacceptable media receives a warning from the Press Council or the prosecutor's office, without checking the complaints received by the journalists. One warning is enough to ensure that the whole edition is left outside the list of the recipients of the state apartment in the journalist's house, or has lost state financial support.

V.Mamedov did not disclose details of his report to the president or vice president of the country, which he had prepared for them. He hopes that the leaders of the state will still meet with him. He said Turan that at the meeting with Aliyev he will report about numerous, serious facts available to him about the appropriation by the group of people of state funds allocated by the state to support the media. V.Mammadov believes that these funds are allocated not to support the press, but to control it. "It would have been better if they helped the newspaper distributors, and there is not a single newsstand in the village of Mashtagy with a population of 40,000 people, as well as Zabrat and Mardakian settlements, and readers cannot spend one manat on a trip to the Koroglu metro station to buy a newspaper there for the same price .... ".

The editor-in-chief is confident that the Media Development Foundation, as well as the Press Council, created for journalists, have long been working for themselves, but not for them. The last fact of giving a bribe to a journalist in the Press Council on the eve of the New Year is a striking example.

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