Baku, July 21, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has met with members of the Board of Directors of the Press Council on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the national press.
The head of state received a special award of the Press Council for his resolute position on the protection of the national interests of Azerbaijan.
President Ilham Aliyev congratulated journalists and the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the national press.
Chairman of the Press Council Aflatun Amashov highlighted the development of the national press, and remembered the measures conducted by national leader Heydar Aliyev to develop the media.
Saying that media representatives highly appreciate President Ilham Aliyev`s role in developing the country, strengthening patriotism ideas in society, Aflatun Amashov thanked the head of state for conferring honorary titles upon a group of media representatives on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the national press
Members of the Board of Directors of the Press Council Akif Ashırlı and Umud Rahimoghlu also thanked President Ilham Aliyev for his attention to the development of the media.
President Ilham Aliyev then presented awards to members of the Press Council who received honorary tittles.
Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Dear members of the Press Council!
My warm greeting to all of you. I want to congratulate you and the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Azerbaijani national press. On the eve of this wonderful holiday, a large group of journalists, about 200 media workers, have been awarded with orders, medals and honorary titles on my decrees. I congratulate them and wish you all every success in your future activities.
This is a great and significant date. We can be proud that our national press has a long history. It is a great asset, it is our heritage. But it is in the years of independence that Azerbaijani press became free and independent in the full sense. In particular, as we have repeatedly spoken about it with you, the abolition of censorship by a historic decree of President Heydar Aliyev in 1998 ushered a new era of the press, and Azerbaijani press became free in the true sense of the word.
I can say that Azerbaijani press has now risen to a higher level. I would like to first of all acknowledge the work of the Press Council. The Press Council has been operating for 12 years. Both Azerbaijani journalists and the Azerbaijani public see the activity of the Press Council. I believe that it is very much appreciated because I can say that the developments that unfolded in Azerbaijani press before the establishment of the Council did not allow the press to be independent in the full sense. It was in those years that Azerbaijani press went through a transition period. The Press Council took on a major function. First of all, it started to protect the rights of journalists. I believe that it has made great strides in this direction. I think this is why the vast majority of our journalists appreciate the activities of the Press Council today. At the same time, the Press Council was a kind of a bridge between the government and the press. The Press Council successfully operates to this day.
At the same time, I believe that the Press Council has played a great role in achieving this high level of the press because I think that this issue is associated not only with the press. It is associated with the development of our society as a whole. We all remember well that the materials that were occasionally published in Azerbaijani press in the early years of independence fell short of our moral standards and our national values. It must have been a sign of the transition period because a free press had just appeared and censorship was abolished. In some cases, there were outright insults and lies.
I believe that the activities of the Press Council in this area have been quite valuable to our society. Today, such facts are extremely rare. I do hope that we will not see materials in the future that do not meet our national values, customs and traditions, as well as the rules of public conduct that have shaped over centuries.
So I want to express my opinion again. I want to say that the Press Council performs a huge function. I appreciate that and wish you further success in your future endeavors.
As far as the state policy is concerned, I think that journalists know and see that. Our policy is sincere and unambiguous in all areas. The Azerbaijani society, of course, periodically hears the opinions related to our policy. We have a permanent and specific approach regarding all matters. I believe that the position of the Azerbaijani government in relation to political and economic reforms, international affairs and the processes occurring in the country, including those related to the development of the media, is already clear to the public.
I am fully confident that Azerbaijan will continue to follow the path of democratic development. This is our conscious choice. We are doing this not to please anyone, but because it is necessary for our society. I have repeatedly said that political reforms must be carried out in parallel with economic transformation to ensure sustainable development of Azerbaijan.
Today, Azerbaijan has a free society. I appreciate the processes taking place in society. Azerbaijani society is rallied around the national idea. Of course, the role of the press is very important. A free press has already emerged and is functioning well, which is one of the main features of democracy. All other freedoms are also guaranteed in Azerbaijan – freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines are published in Azerbaijan. There are more than 50 television and radio channels. There are no restrictions, and it is our greatest asset.
I want to reiterate that democratic development is impossible without a free press. Let me repeat that, let journalists and our society know the official position of Azerbaijan again: Azerbaijan will continue to pursue a policy towards ensuring all freedoms. This is a priority issue for us, because our country can thrive only in this way.
Of course, political reforms must also be underpinned by economic ones, as otherwise our achievements will be half-hearted. As you know, reforms are conducted in the economic sphere as well. Despite the crisis experienced in the world and the region today, Azerbaijan's economy is developing successfully, the well-being of people is improving and Azerbaijan is still in charge of its own future. I think it is our greatest asset. In the years of independence, we are conducting a truly independent policy. The interests of the Azerbaijani state and its people are the heart of this policy. These interests are above everything for us. Our national ideas are top priority for us.
Of course, the activities of the press are of interest to any person. People get all the information from the press. Therefore, in any country, including Azerbaijan, the press should be impartial, act flexibly and promptly, and fully provide people with information. I think we are seeing this in Azerbaijan, because Azerbaijani press has already reached a high level. I appreciate the activities of the media both in terms of promptness and in the protection of national interests.
In the early years of independence, it seemed to us that whatever there was in the West should be applied to Azerbaijan, so to speak. We believed that this is where the most progressive experience was and that there was a free society. But over the years we have seen that this is not always the case. As a matter of fact, both you and I have some thoughts related to the press. We see that there are no disagreements on important topics in the Western press. On the contrary, it is very difficult to find an alternative opinion. We clearly see this in relation to domestic policies, but more in relation to foreign policy. Western media protect the political interests of the West as much as possible. This fact, of course, is commendable even though it is not an absolute manifestation of a free press. But in the interests of countries or organizations, this fact, of course, is commendable. This must also be the case with us. I believe that we are also going this way. Our society is rallied around national ideas, national and strategic interests. There are no differences in our society related to our strategic choice and major issues of concern for the country. Our media, of course, should first of all protect the strategic interests of the state, so that our state could continue to live in security and protect our national interests in the international plane. I believe that recent years have seen a major turning point in the media in this direction. If we consider that the 21st century is a century of information, of course, we must constantly pay attention to this.
Of course, our media promptly circulate information related to the different processes taking place in the country. I should also note that quite often, if there are some violations, errors or an ugly situation in the country, I get this information also from the press. This is very important for me. As you probably also know, the President has no direct access to the press, there are mediators, assistants, the Administration staff and other sources. Therefore, sometimes the information is either delayed or does not arrive. Sometimes, which is no secret, there are attempts to conceal information. Therefore, the existence of a free press in Azerbaijan facilitates my job as well. People working in the administration, in other places and agencies know that sometimes I get the information earlier than them and react immediately. It is at least necessary to check it and, if everything is correct, action must be taken. Therefore, your work is very valuable and important for me, and I appreciate that. And this is the way it should be, because there are still a lot of problems awaiting solution in the country. Many issues have been resolved, but a lot still remains to be done in connection with political reforms and economic development. I believe that this is necessary, in particular, to deepen the reform of the control system.
There have been instances of social injustice in the country. There have been facts of bureaucratic arbitrariness and other unsightly facts – corruption, bribery, violation of human rights. Of course, we need to know about all of this and respond. If you do not respond, then the perpetrators will commit even more violations. Therefore, the media have a unique role to play in this. I tell you about this quite frankly and request to continue working in this direction, so that both society and officials who have committed these violations could know that not a single wrongdoing will be left without response.
In recent years, if a tree is cut down anywhere in Baku or elsewhere, this is immediately reported in the newspapers and on Internet sites. There is immediate reaction and measures are taken. The same holds true for other spheres. I have repeatedly asked business people and citizens in general that if they observe some injustices, violations of the law and arbitrariness, they should respond immediately. Today, there is enough capacity for such a response. The Internet is widespread in Azerbaijan – 75 per cent of the population are Internet users. Today, we are trying to extend broadband Internet to all locations. Therefore, I want to reiterate that there is still a lot to do in this area. For me personally, the press plays an excellent support role. I am sure that we will continue this cooperation in the future.
I also want to touch upon Azerbaijan’s international position. Of course, the state pursues its own policies. Our international positions are strong enough. A growing number of countries want to cooperate with us and Azerbaijan enjoys a great reputation in the international arena. Otherwise, 155 countries would not have elected Azerbaijan a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council a few years ago.
At the same time, as you can also see and are aware, the international media are conducting an unfair campaign against Azerbaijan. This campaign is unfair because it is based on double standards. There are mistakes, shortcomings and drawbacks in any country. We are well aware of them and are trying to resolve them, but to turn Azerbaijan into a target in the region-wide context, of course, is a sign of double standards and an anti-Azerbaijani policy. In particular, this campaign assumes the ugliest forms in the run-up to major international events, as coordinated attacks are organized against us. We saw this yet again on the eve of the European Games, and it was not a surprise for me. On the contrary, it would have been a surprise if everything was different. There are various reasons for that. You, too, are well aware of them – the independent policies of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan's successes and the growing trend of Islamophobia in the West. In general, a policy of determining the place of each country is being conducted. It looks as if someone is trying, as they say, to determine the rating of these countries or the places they occupy.
The activities of the Armenian lobby are aimed at us. Of course, this also plays a role, as we often see long Armenian ears behind anti-Azerbaijani articles. They have chosen us as a target. Target number one for Armenians of the world is Azerbaijan. I already talked about this and I want to reiterate that our main enemy is the Armenian lobby. I can say and prove this to any audience. This does not apply to the Armenian people. The Armenian nation itself is suffering from the criminal regime of the dictatorship. This regime has put the Armenian people in such a terrible situation that it may take 100 years to overcome it. However, the Armenian lobby, the groups joined in several organizations work day and night to tarnish and slander on Azerbaijan and to undermine our authority. They have broad financial opportunities and links. They have close ties with the governments of the countries in which they live. They work with legislators and pay them. All this is hidden under the guise of lobbying, but in essence it is a bribe. Thus, the Armenian lobby is at the forefront of an organized campaign against us. But the structures that have joined them, people of another category are carrying out a very dirty campaign against us. This probably will continue. We should be and we are ready for that.
I should also note that this campaign has had no effect and will never affect the internal and external policy of Azerbaijan, as our policy is underpinned by the Azerbaijani people, its desires and interests. Today, Azerbaijan's policy is based on the will of its people. This is the main factor in matters of both domestic and foreign policy.
Of course, we will not deviate from our path and will continue to successfully develop our country. But we must also be prepared for the fact that different foreign media publish offensive articles about Azerbaijan that are written on the basis of lies and slander.
What to do? First of all, we must communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world. We are working hard in this direction. The state bodies, the public organizations operating in Azerbaijan and our media are doing a lot of work in this area. I believe that there should be more web-sites in foreign languages in the future. Such sites are available today, and we need to increase their number. I believe that most rated Internet sites in Azerbaijan should certainly have versions in other languages, because we, of course, are trying to identify the existing problems in the country and to resolve them. But we need to communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world. How is modern Azerbaijan developing? What successes has it achieved? What contribution has it made to the world treasury? Much remains to be done in this area. Here, of course, there should also be state support and it will be provided. In particular, more work should be done in the Internet space today, because there will be even more Internet users over time.
We need to unmask the Armenian propaganda. We need to inform the world community of what is behind the attacks against us. This is a very simple approach. Why is the Armenian lobby engaged in this activity against us? First of all, because of the hostility! We are their eternal enemies. Let no-one ever forget about it. On the other hand, they are trying to prove that there is no democracy in Azerbaijan and that human rights are violated, which is why the Armenian minority can’t live within Azerbaijan in the future. This is a nonsense. Azerbaijan is a multiethnic and multi-confessional country. Representatives of all nationalities and religions live in Azerbaijan like brothers. Our country has created a unique environment that can serve as an example for many countries today. But this is precisely the main thesis behind this propaganda and anti-Azerbaijani campaign. Then again, there is the subject of Karabakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Therefore, we need to introduce Azerbaijan to the world media as a modern, growing, open and tolerant country. At the same time, we need to broadly cover the historical reality and Azerbaijan's position related to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the current situation as a whole because Armenia is always trying to prevent the release of accurate information. They say that there is a conflict and let's resolve it peacefully. But how did this conflict emerge? What are the reasons behind it? Who is the occupier? Who is the victim of occupation? Of course, neither they nor the foreign media in collusion with them provide any information about that. This mission falls upon us and we must do that. We need to maintain closer ties with foreign media resources. I know that foreign journalists occasionally come to Azerbaijan these days. At the same time, their arrival in our country completely eliminates the biased opinion about Azerbaijan that emerged as a result of Armenian propaganda. Therefore, it is important to invite representatives of foreign media to Azerbaijan and to organize foreign trips of Azerbaijani journalists. We should create a form of cooperation with the leading Western media organizations, conduct consultations or a simple exchange of information. In this way we will be able to access foreign media space primarily to inform the world community about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Of course, in an open and fair fight the Armenian side will not be able to counter our arguments in any way. Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land. In fact, not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the present-day Armenia is Azerbaijani land. You probably know this better than anyone else. The names of the absolute majority of towns and villages on the territory of the present-day Armenia are of Azerbaijani origin. The Azerbaijani people lived on these lands for centuries.
The legal side of the issue unequivocally supports the position of Azerbaijan. There are four UN Security Council resolutions. The UN Security Council has not adopted resolutions in relation to any other conflict in the post-Soviet space. So it is the main document for the resolution of issues. In other words, these are the legal and historical factors, and Armenia today exists in the region like a puppet, thanks to foreign donations.
Armenia has long lost its independence. It is called an outpost at best. In essence, it is a butler in the region. If this is the choice of the Armenian people, then we can’t say anything. But it is hard to believe that when the Armenian people lived with the dream of independence this is how they imagined it. And why? Because of the occupation policy! If it hadn’t been for the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Armenian people, of course, could gain tangible independence.
In short, I believe that our work in the foreign media space should be carried out in these two areas – the truth related to the conflict and the truth related to the present-day Azerbaijani realities. We need to communicate this to the world. We want them to know us better. During the European Games some people criticized us, saying that Azerbaijan was conducting these games to popularize itself. There is nothing reprehensible in that. Every country wants to introduce itself. Don’t developed countries want to do that? Of course, they do! Otherwise, they would not hold similar games. This is our natural desire. We want the world to know us and to see our development. They saw what we have achieved and created in a matter of 24 years. We have created all this ourselves, without any help from the outside and without anyone's protection. And despite the Karabakh conflict! Therefore, we will try to host a variety of other international events in Azerbaijan. We want to conduct presentations of Azerbaijan so that people abroad could get to know us, could respect and reckon with us even more. In this case, our interests will be provided to an even greater extent.
I believe that our society is going through very positive developments related to these matters. I want to reiterate that our society is rallied around common interests. Our people are united around national ideas. We are trying and will continue to try to further strengthen our country and ensure even greater prosperity for the Azerbaijani people. Of course, on the one hand, the government has an important function in this, but the other, the press has a huge role to play. As I have already mentioned, media workers are coping with these tasks with honor. I salute and congratulate you once again, and wish you continued success. Thank you.