Why are journalists not invited to the events of Azerbaijani government agencies? – INVESTIGATION

Why are journalists not invited to the events of Azerbaijani government agencies? – <font color=red> INVESTIGATION </font>
# 18 February 2010 10:57 (UTC +04:00)
But in most cases it is impossible to get information from some government agencies, though according to the legislation, the government agencies must give information about their activity to media. Recently journalists have not been invited to the meetings of government agencies, meetings, board meetings. APA tried to investigate why media representatives are not invited to the meetings of government agencies – ministries, state committees, law-enforcement bodies.

The journalists cooperating with Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers are not satisfied with the level of Cabinet’s relations with media. They say the press service does not answer the questions concerning the activity of the Cabinet, invite to the meetings only TV channels, do not issue press release concerning the meetings. Spokesman for the Cabinet Akif Ali told APA that invitation of TV channels and state agency to the meetings is connected with the limit of place.
“When the hall is large we invite all media representatives. This is not discrimination. The invitations depend on the format of the meetings, receptions,” he said.
Akif Ali said the press service posts the press releases on the official website of the Cabinet.

As regards the Interior Ministry, journalists complain that they are not invited to the board meetings, conferences. Only TV channels were invited to the board meeting of the ministry held on January 29. Deputy spokesman for the ministry Ehsan Zahidov told APA that they attach great importance to the relations with mass media and public.
As regards the reports that the relations of the local police offices with media are prohibited, Ehsan Zahidov said they are not true. On the contrary, they local police offices are told to give information to media about the measures taken to combat crimes.
“Invitation of TV channels to the board meetings is connected with the problem of place. As there are not enough seats in the hall, only TV channels and state agency are invited,” he said.

The press service of the Taxes Ministry also invites to the meetings only TV channels. Spokesman for the ministry Fariz Samadov told APA that establishment of good relations with media representatives is their main task.
“Final reports and press releases from the board meetings are issued. If the task of the media representatives is to obtain information, our task is to help them. I think the Taxes Ministry has perfect relations with media representatives, media is regularly informed about the taxes legislation, reforms, changes. There is no problem with the mass media,” he said.

Foreign Ministry has perfect relations with the media, but briefings and press conferences have been recently cancelled for some reasons. Spokesman for the ministry Elkhan Polukhov says that it is temporary and connected with the structural changes in the ministry.

Baku Main Police Office does not invite media representatives to the board meetings, conferences. Spokesman Galib Rahimov told APA that it is a closed body.
“Only in some cases interested media representatives are invited. We give media possible information about the board meeting,” he said.

The parliament’s press service has good relations with media, the only problem is that few media representatives are invited to the speaker’s meetings. Spokesman Akif Nasirov told APA that actually they are interested in inviting all the leading media representatives to these meetings.
“But it is impossible. All are invited when the meetings are held in large halls. When the meetings are held in small halls it is impossible to invite all media,” he said.

Sometimes journalists face problems in specifying the information, getting direct answers to the questions from the press service of the Ministry of Industry and Energy. Spokesman for the ministry Azer Mansimli says that he immediately answers the questions concerning the issues that he is aware.
“I do not speak about the issues I do not know. Sometimes it takes time to specify the information, I pass the information given to me by the leadership. There are no serious problems in the relations with media,” he said.

Ministry of Justice is also among the organizations which don’t invite media to board meetings and meetings. According to Rasim Hasanov, internal affairs are discussed at board meetings, and that is why media isn’t invited: “But television and agencies are invited to meetings. Press is invited rarely, because of that we spread information immediately after the meetings”.

Head of press service of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic Eldar Sultanov noted that the society is constantly given profound and objective information about the activity of the prosecutor’s office, as well as about the plenary meeting of the General Prosecutor’s Office: “Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic is an open enough body for media. All questions of the Mass Media representatives are answered in time and profoundly, except the confidential information. That is why, it is not right to regard as a problem the absence of some media representatives in the events of General Prosecutor’s Office,” he said.

State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations always invites the media to its events, but last time they didn’t invite media to the presentation of certificates to former registered religious organizations. Chief of the Publishing and Editorial Department Elchin Jabbarov told APA that it has no special reason: “Several events have been recently held in connection with the presentation the certificates to religious organizations. It has become an ordinary case and that is why we didn’t invite media to the following events,” he said.
Jabbarov noted that media would be invited to other events of the committee in the near future.

Head of press service of the Ministry of National Security Arif Babayev didn’t explain the reason why they don’t invite media to their events:
“MNS isn’t the Ministry of Agriculture. Society is informed constantly about the events held by the ministry and we attach great importance to the relations with mass media to ensure the national security of Azerbaijan”.

Head of press service of the Ministry of Agriculture Murtuzali Hajiyev said that the press bodies actively cooperating with the ministry are invited to events: “We, ourselves are interested in spreading information about the events and activity of the ministry. We invite the press representatives, who do not pervert the information about us, to all of our events. We do not have any problem in relations with the press”.

Though Central Election Commission invites mass media to all of its events and meetings, the mass media representatives aren’t invited to the meetings at the Central Election Commission. Head of the press service of the organization Azer Sariyev noted that it depended on desire of the sides: “If sides which meet with the CEC officials want the presence of media at the meeting, then we’ll not make it problem”.
Military Prosecutor’s Office press service neither invites mass media to board meetings, nor gives necessary information. APA correspondent couldn’t receive any answer from the head of the press service Afrayim Tahmazov.
It is not easy to receive information from the press service of the Supreme Court. Media representatives aren’t invited to plenums of this body and aren’t allowed to court procedures, they can only receive the information about concrete court procedures. It was impossible to speak about the reasons of it with the head of press service Allahverdi Nehramli. Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Finance, Constitutional Court do not give any information on this case either. Baku City Executive Power does not even recognize the existence of such an organization as media.
But there are organizations which do their work honestly and invite journalists to all events, meetings. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Youth and Sport, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population, Social Defense Fund, “Azerenerji” ASC, State Students Admission Commission, State Committee for Work with Diaspora, and State Agency on Standardization, Metrology and Patent are among these organizations. But none of media representatives could have taken an exclusive interview from Minister of Economic Development Shahin Mustafayev so far.
Chairman of the Press Council Aflatun Amashov notes that he is a supporter of complex relations between state bodies and press.
Chairman of the Press Council said it was negative case that press was not invited to the official events and the Council received many complaints about that. “We need to solve these problems. It is right that after the adoption of law on obtaining information, some government agencies launched their Internet sites and every visitor can get information there. But unfortunately it is not so always and it creates various opinions. We took it into consideration and prepared a document about the new form of the development of relations between the government agencies and press. The document will have effective impact on the solution of problems created in this field.

“525 Gazet” editor-in-chief Rashad Majeed says that some government agencies invite coterie of media organizations, sometimes TV channels only. He said if the government agency was taking public opinion into consideration it should invite wide range of media organizations to the events. “The government agencies should be interested in spreading of information about their activity. If they don’t invite media organizations to their events it means that Azerbaijani media lost its influence and the government agencies don’t take public opinion into account. According to the laws, the government agencies should be open to public community”.

“Yeni Musavat” editor-in-chief Rauf Arifoglu considered it as problem that media doesn’t participate in the official events. He said it restricted journalists to obtain information at first hand. According to him, the government agencies should be interested in inviting the leading newspapers and news agencies to their events. Arifoglu said that restrictions deepened gap between the officials and journalists and complicated specification of the reports and it was leading to misunderstandings between press and officials. Arifoglu said “Yeni Musavat” was invited to the number of economic events, YAP press conferences and briefings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but generally its participation in such events is restricted.

Director of the Media Rights Institute Rasheed Hajili calls Azerbaijan a democratic country and said rules of democracy demanded the government to report to be open to the public community. “Media delivers information about the activity of government agency to the public community and therefore every governmental organization is obliged to give information to media. It based on the law on obtaining information and the Constitutional point about freedom of information. “Article 8 of mass media law gives a right to journalists to get and spread information about all events taken place at the government agencies and therefore the government and public organizations are obliged to give information to media. Article 50 obliges the government organizations to accredit journalists and to give information in time.

Chief of the Public Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Ali Hasanov told APA supreme administrative institutions ands central executive power should be interested in delivering information about their activity and work done by them throughout the year to the population and its only mechanism is mass media. “Therefore we are regularly recommending to press services, central and local executive powers, public relations departments to use media opportunities fully for delivering information to the society. This is one of the main principles of the government policy. We are working for establishing relations between press services and media organizations, organizing trainings and workshops and strengthening relations between them”. Hasanov said there was no centralized control over the activity of press services, but they should be interested in it. “We recommend all central and local executive authorities to invite all media organizations without exception to their events”.

P. S. APA began this investigation on February 4, but it took two weeks to publish this material because of delaying responses by press services of some government agencies or non-availability of some of them. Nevertheless the press services have to inform media and respond the questions in time or at least within 48 hours.
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