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By Index on Censorship / 20 March 2014
One of the few remaining independent media outlets in Azerbaijan, the newspaper Azadliq has continued to report on government corruption and cronyism in spite of an increasing financial squeeze enforced by the authorities.
Accepting the award on behalf of Azadliq is the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Rahim Haciyev.
Azadliq newspaper was set up in 1989 by Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, the main opposition organization (in the mid of 90s APFP stopped funding Azadliq and it became an independent newspaper). The first editor-in-chief of the newspaper was a famous journalist Najaf Najafov. Azadliq newspaper has always been a paper admired by free and freedom-loving people. A key motto of the paper was ‘serving the truth’. This was a main reason of constant pressure and attacks on the newspaper. In 2006, the newspaper was evicted from the office located in the city centre. It had been relocated into three small rooms at “so-called” state-financed publishing house.
Harsh repressions have been started against the newspaper staff. Later on, a chief editor and the staff member of the newspaper, poet-satirist were imprisoned with fabricated charges after court decision. The kidnapping and beating of a newspaper staff followed by similar incident when an Azadliq journalist was returning back from fulfilling his job duties and was beaten in the evening. Two journalists were stabbed for their critical articles. Last year, a court had fined the newspaper 65,000 euros. The newspaper website which had 9 million visitor IPs in 2013, was a target to severe attacks. Circulation of the newspaper is only 8000 copies.
Nevertheless, our newspaper has an enormous impact on public opinion. Even by your (Western) standards, this small circulation makes the government dis-comfortable who is doing everything to shut down the paper. It reminds us a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be or not to be?” With this dilemma the newspapers is moving towards its 25th jubilee. Despite all the repressions, unbelievable difficulties and problems, the newspaper team is determined to continue this sacred job – serving the truth. Because this is meaning of what we do and the meaning of our lives!
Thank you for your attention and support. In addition, I would like to thank the international democratic community and the democratic community of our country who support the newspaper and let me express our special thanks to our loyal readers.
— Rahim Haciyev, Editor-in-Chief, AzadliqAzadliq | Azerbaijan | Freedom of Expression Awards 2014