Tuesday, July 22, 2008

National Press Day in Azerbaijan

Elchin Shikhlinski, editor-in-chief of Zerkalo and chairman of Azerbaijan's Journalists' Union, is interviewed in today's edition of Day.Az, the more-or-less independent Azerbaijani news portal. The interview focuses on corruption among journalists. This is an important topic, certainly, but I wonder whether corruption is the main problem in the sphere of journalism. The entire system is built to exclude honest news coverage as much as possible.

I have met Shikhlinski, and I respect his position as a journalist who attempts to publish an independent newspaper against steep opposition. And the interview begins with his straight-forward assessment of the state of journalism and society.

"Certainly, Azerbaijani journalism today is in a poor state. But it is an axiom that Azerbaijani journalism is a reflection of the state of our whole society and problems of media representatives are integral part of the problems of the whole society. Thus, it is naive to hope that problems of Azerbaijani journalist will be settled more quickly that the problems of our society."

The interview is timed for National Press Day in Azerbaijan. I'm not sure what the meaning of this holiday is. One of my students called me up to congratulate me on it. The International Press Institute used the occasion to to call for the president of Azerbaijan to release four imprisoned journalists. As the IPI notes in its statement, "Azerbaijan has earned the unenviable reputation of being among the world’s worst jailors of journalists."

Note: The picture has nothing to do with journalism. It's a cat - sitting on a tandoor oven at the bakery where I buy my bread. I suppose this might frowned upon by health inspectors, if such people existed here.