President-friend of journalists or about ‘objectivity’ of independent Int'l NGOs

Sat 08 Jan 2011 03:54 GMT | 07:54 Local Time

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The state information agency AzerTAj has published an article by its general director AzerTaj Aslan Aslanov.

The state information agency AzerTAj has published an article by its general director AzerTaj Aslan Aslanov entitled “President of Azerbaijan is a friend of journalists or about ‘objectivity’ of ‘independent’ international NGOs'.

Please find below the full text without alterations:

A really remarkable event occurred in the last days of 2010. Azerbaijan’s Committee to Protect Journalists ‘RUH’ conducted a survey among the media and journalists' organizations of the republic in order to determine the winner of the award of A Friend of Journalists.

81 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted among representatives of 93 media outlets, including 30 daily, 19 weekly newspapers, 2 magazines, 11 news agencies, 13 media organizations, 8 news portals, 7 TV and 3 radio channels, while answering the question 'Who of the socio-political figures, officials do you think to be a friend of journalists by the results of 2010?” "uniquely named President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

Presenting the award of a Friend of Journalists to  President Ilham Aliyev is the natural result of a grand work done by our Head of State during the years of independence for the further strengthening of the statehood of Azerbaijan, comprehensive provision of freedom of speech and the press - one of the most important criteria for building a civil society, development of independent media in our country. This award is an expression of recognition of the President’s contribution in creating the conditions for stable operation of the media and sincere gratitude to the press officers for the care of the president for our national journalism.

Against the backdrop of announcement of President Ilham Aliyev's to be a friend of journalists, the unjustified criticism by some international organizations and government agencies of some foreign countries of the situation with freedom of expression and press freedom in Azerbaijan is at least surprising. For example, on March 11 last year, the US State Department posted a report on human rights in Azerbaijan in 2009 on its website. The second section of the report was devoted to civil liberties, including freedom of speech and press.

At first acquaintance with the report its bias becomes apparent. However, the report contains some positive points. For example, the expression "Armenian separatists, with the help of Armenia (only Armenia? – A.A.) continue to hold Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and neighboring seven districts under control” means the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

However, in the sections relating to the situation of human rights and democratic freedoms in our country, we see an unjustified criticism, and failure to stress the progress made by Azerbaijan since the restoration of independence in the development of democracy. US often sets such requirements to the young states which makes you thing that the White House wants to see "American society", such as in the United States, in these countries and they forget that while the history of democracy on the other side of the ocean outnumbers several ages, independent states which emerged in the former Soviet Union freed from the shackles of the totalitarian communist regime for nearly twenty years ago and have just stepped to the path of building a democratic society. This path is thorny, the Americans confronted with similar challenges and difficulties in the past centuries, should have known it well.

Certainly, it is impossible to achieve all the main things at once –the most important is a true commitment to democratic values and determination to follow the chosen path. All this can be seen firsthand in Azerbaijan. Therefore, the report of the US State Department is nothing but a pattern of arrogance. The report says nothing about the successes achieved in the past years in Azerbaijan in the area of freedom of speech and press, the development of an independent press. Perhaps the authors of this paper do not really see any progress in this field in our country? Of course, it's hard to believe, therefore, to put it mildly, there is a doubt on the objectivity of the report and the evaluations it presents.

Not surprisingly that a number of "international" organizations attempting to present themselves as "independent", but when it comes to the issue of funding, immediately losing this independence, accept reports of the US State Department as a kind of a signal, a guide to action by their main sponsor. Sometimes these "independent" human rights organizations repeat the thoughts of the US Department of State in their annual reports, even without the detailed studies. In this case there appears a ridiculous situation. In fact, why do they need these "research"? The general direction of reports of these organizations has already been defined by those who issue grants and it is just left to set expressions in the report of the State Department in a different way and add some shades to be awarded funding for the next year! Yes, this is how these organizations work, their staff talk openly about it in personal conversations and sometimes in their blogs. We know very well how Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Reporters Without Border, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights House Foundation and other organizations make their reports. These organizations work on a political order, and once the leitmotif of the reports the US State Department changes, the spirit of their reports changes as well.

You do not need to go far to get the example. In period of Yushenko international NGOs unanimously granted high ratings to Ukraine in the sphere of human rights and democratic freedoms. We especially want to note that Azerbaijan has always considered Ukraine a friendly country and it continues today. Provision of human rights in Ukraine in period of both the present and previous government was really improving and this dynamics continues.

However, it is surprising that as soon as the power in Ukraine has shifted, the same international organizations have changed their positions, forgotten the achievements of this country in the past years and started to speak about the unsettled problems there. It seems that these problems appeared as unexpectedly as the severe winter of this year hitting Europe!

Another example: at the time when the United States, being one of the Minsk Group co-chairs, fully supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia do not miss the occasion to criticize the countries, recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, do not demonstrate the same principality about ways to settle the Karabakh conflict, speaking instead about the quality of the three principles, fixed in the Helsinki final act including territorial integrity, rights of nations for self-determination and nonuse of force. International NGOs, whose eyes are obscured by dollars, also do not have their special opinion, immediately support this ‘valuable directions’ and repeat it, something being unaware that such an approach to the issue is nothing but a double standard.

The impartiality and objectivity, declared by these organizations, are nothing but two-facedness and hypocrisy.

Freedom House that calls Azerbaijan an ‘unfree state’ and Nagorno Karabakh ‘a partially free’ area is especially differing among these organizations. Though the US Department of State recognizes Nagorno Karabakh part of Azerbaijan, apart from being absurd, this organization believes this region is a ‘country’. Another issue is unclear-how can one consider the military regime in occupied Nagorno Karabakh ‘partially democratic’ if the third part of the residents of this region is forced to flee homes for national belonging, deprived of the opportunity to take part in local elections and construction of civil community institutions? To compare, let’s recall the apartheid period in the South African Republic.

If we take the white population of the South African Republic in the isolated state, then in terms of human rights, the situation inside this community was on the high level and was no worse than in Great Britain. However, in conditions when the majority of the country’s population was fully distanced from the general process and deprived of fundamental rights, was it possible to speak of democracy in the South African Republic? Certainly, no! In that period the South African Republic was one of the most totalitarian and undemocratic countries of the world.

So how could Nagorno Karabakh get a rating of the ‘partially free’ area, when the third part of the population of this region was deprived of the opportunity to take part in political processes, while the puppet regime set a goal to create a monoethnic Armenian society, committing Apartheid, in this region? The answer to this question would be unclear to even the authors of annual reports of Freedom House, who lost their head amid these standards.

It is not as difficult to gain democracy within a small family, whose all members are relatives. However, it is much more difficult to establish order in a big and an apartment building  where many other families live. Today Armenia, which expelled Azerbaijani population from historical lands in 1987-1989, is a monoethnic state. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan resembles an apartment building where numerous families speaking different languages live in conditions of friendship and tolerance. In such case, why does Freedom House consider Armenia ‘partially free’, and Azerbaijan ‘an unfree country’? Does Freedom House think that to become democratic, it is necessary to hold ethnic cleansings and create a monoethnic state, like Armenia? If Armenia also had so many ethnic groups and nations, like Azerbaijan, would it be able to preserve the current rating, Freedom House grants to it? We doubt it strongly!

The same words can be applied to the organization Reporters without border that included Azerbaijan (most likely, at the order of its sponsors) into the list of the countries with ‘strict internet censorship’. Such ‘international NGOs’, financed by governmental agencies, are turning into a means of political pressure on other countries, holding independent policy. This mechanism is quite simple. First they create an ‘international’ organization by spending huge money. After completion of the phase of popularization and winning the image of the ‘world scale influential organization’, they start fulfilling the tasks, empowered directly to it, including the stage of voicing the position of an invisible supporter as the independent position of the ‘international’ NGO. This promote the annual reports of  Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Reporters without Border, Committee for Protection of Journalists and other organizations.

In a number of cases, while making annual reports, top managers address unofficial curators in the governments of sponsor countries with the direct question: ‘What should we write?’. In some cases NGOs wait for the voyages of ‘high guests’ and other VIP representatives and then started working at the text of the report in line with received directives. All these facts are well known to us. They show the insincerity and sometimes open hypocrisy of these human rights organizations. Their ‘independence’ (as well as influence of their opinion) is out of the question, if their financial dependence has existed all the time.

Most of 93 mass media, taking part in the poll, held by Azerbaijan in late 2010 are private structures, not financed by the state, which means they are absolutely independent. The recognition of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev a friend of journalists by 81% of these media is not only symbolical. It is also a specific accusation addressed to independent international organizations, controlled and regulated by progovernmental agencies, forming their ‘own’ opinion at the instruction of their unofficial curators. The results of free poll, held among Azerbaijani mass media, clearly evidence that at the unanimous opinion of the journalists community, the head of the Azerbaijani state worthily fulfills the mission of the guarantor of democratic values.

By the way, it is time when big states, arrogantly teaching young states, can also learn something from them. This is primarily related to those who are trying to put pressure on governments, formed in the result of free elections and holding independent policy by means of puppet international organizations. Azerbaijan is the state which does not need alms, which is why it is not possible to press on it. The way, passed by our country in the years of independence, has repeatedly proven it.

Naming Ilham Aliyev a friend of journalists is the most weighty and objective response to the groundless criticism of the US Department of State and some international organizations of the situation in the sphere of freedom of press and speech in our country. President Ilham Aliyev, who successfully continues the strategic course, envisioned by the Azerbaijan statehood and architect of political structure of the country Heydar Aliyev, in new conditions demonstrated the adherence to the historical traditions of fair society and its values, which is why the Azerbaijani journalists declared the president to be their friend, assessing it with gratitude.

Aslan Aslanov
General director of AzerTAj




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