RSF: Policy of Azerbaijani authorities on destruction of pluralism i

Reporters without borders: Policy of Azerbaijani authorities on
destruction of pluralism in media led to closure of ”Zerkalo”

11:46 21/06/2014 >> REGION

One of Azerbaijan’s leading independent newspapers, the
Russian-language Zerkalo (Mirror), has been forced to stop publishing
because government control of the advertising market and distribution
networks has deprived it of the income it needs to keep operating,
reads the statement of the international organization Reporters
Without Borders.

“Broadcasting was already under complete state control and now the
independent print media are in the process of collapse as a result of
the economic vice that the government is tightening around them,”
reads the document.

It is stated that Editor-in-chief Elchin Shikhly finally announced on
31 May that it would cease to produce a print edition altogether. It
is still publishing online but staff are no longer being paid.

According to the RWB Street vendors were banned in Baku in 2011 on the
grounds that they were obstructing traffic. The distribution network’s
newsstands were gradually eliminated in 2012 or replaced by a new
network of shops from which independent newspapers are for the most
part excluded. Finally, selling newspapers in the metro was banned in

The economic difficulties that Zerkalo has been facing are the result
of the government’s implementation of an insidious censorship
strategy, believes Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without
Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“Government manipulation is now bearing fruit and media pluralism is
all but eradicated in Azerbaijan. We call on the authorities to reform
the distribution system without delay and to stop manipulating the
advertising market so that media diversity is guaranteed,” he

According to the statement given the government-orchestrated
destruction of media pluralism, frequent pardons for detainees should
fool no one. Two journalists were among the 171 detainees pardoned on
26 May but at least eight other journalists are still held. The latest
victims include Zerkalo’s well-known Turkey correspondent Rauf
Mirkadyrov, who has been in pre-trial detention on trumped-up spying
charges since 18 April.

The organization also notes that Azerbaijan is 160th out of 180
countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Rauf Mirkadirov, columnist of Azerbaijani newspaper “Zerkalo”, was
arrested on April 18 in Ankara on charges of expiration of documents.
On April 19 Mirkadirov was deported to Azerbaijan, where he
immediately was arrested and put in custody by the MNS on suspicion of
treason. On April 21 the court in Baku sanctioned his arrest for three
months. Mirkadirov is accused of the cooperation with special services
of Armenia; specifically he is accused of making the transfers of the
state secret information, including those about the dislocation of
Azerbaijani Armed forces to Armenia during 2008-2009.


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