Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony to give out apartments to journalists
20 july 2017, 09:31
- Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Dear representatives of the media,
The professional holiday of journalists is approaching. I sincerely congratulate all Azerbaijani journalists on this occasion and wish them continued success.
On the eve of this wonderful professional holiday, we are gathered for the opening of a residential building built for journalists. This is the second building. Journalists have been living in the first building for several years now. Now we will celebrate the opening of the second building. There are 156 apartments in the first building and 255 in the second. At the same time, we will lay the foundation of the third building today. There will be 255 apartments in it as well. Thus, the state provides apartments to hundreds of journalists in such a short time. This is another manifestation of the government’s attention on Azerbaijani journalism.
Azerbaijani journalism develops and plays a very positive role in society. All freedoms are guaranteed in Azerbaijan, including the freedom of speech, and you, journalists, are well aware of that. Thousands of media outlets are registered and freely operate in Azerbaijan. Today, Azerbaijani journalists reveal problems that worry society, conduct a very valuable analysis and, in general, play a positive role in the development of our country.
I have always tried and I am still trying to support journalists. This is evidenced by my numerous meetings and warm conversations with journalists. In particular, the construction of buildings for journalists is a manifestation of this policy. This initiative was put forward several years ago. Journalists raised this issue and I reacted positively to this. As a result, we are already celebrating the opening of the second building here.
I remember saying at the opening of the first building four years ago that this territory would probably be called "a settlement of journalists" in the future. And it so happened. This beautiful place is already a "settlement of journalists" and a third building will be constructed here. Of course, we will take additional measures to resolve day-to-day problems of journalists in the future. I am told that there is a need for a new road here, because there is a road on one side at present. Therefore, an appropriate instruction has been given to ensure that there is access to both directions and people live here even more comfortably.
Every city has the most valuable and prestigious places. Usually it is the center of a city, and in cities located on waterfront the most prestigious buildings are those with a sea view. These houses have a sea view and are also located in the city center. "Azneft" Square five minutes of drive from here. This shows again that we are trying to create the best conditions for journalists. The buildings are also beautiful, spacious, bright and comfortable. I am sure that people who have a good track record in journalism and service to the Motherland will live here in comfort.
As for issues related to the further development of journalism, I can tell you that the Azerbaijani government will continue to actively develop a free press. Journalists have all the conditions. Today, Azerbaijani society lives in the conditions of tranquility, security and stability. At the present time, this is an achievement in itself, and we are protecting our country from all possible risks. There are no sources of risk inside the country. A serious policy is being conducted to protect our country against external factors in the ideological sphere, in border protection and in general. We always try – and I believe that we have succeeded in this – to protect Azerbaijan from possible risks, so that the people of Azerbaijan could live in peace and security.
The journalists who live and will live in these buildings belong to different political spectra, and there was no discrimination here either. People with different political views and belonging to different parties will live here together like one family. In fact, Azerbaijani society is also developing in this direction. There is national accord in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani society is rallied around a common goal. Of course, you are well aware that the development, stability and tranquility observed in Azerbaijan are studied in many countries around the world today. Sometimes they are perceived with surprise, and the reasons for this are very simple. There are wonderful democratic conditions in Azerbaijan. There is economic development in Azerbaijan. By pursuing an independent policy, Azerbaijan has consolidated its positions both in the region and throughout the world. Our influence opportunities are expanding and growing. Azerbaijan is pursuing a policy of goodwill. Our policies are centered on the interests of Azerbaijani citizens and the Azerbaijani state. I believe that these two main factors already have fairly strong support in Azerbaijan. The steps we have taken in connection with social, economic and foreign policies have brought us great success, and Azerbaijan is treated with great sympathy in the world.
I am absolutely convinced that democracy plays a special role in the development of any country. A country may be economically rich and have natural resources, but if there isn’t a wonderful atmosphere in society and no freedoms, then this development will be half-hearted or unstable. Our advantage lies in the fact that we carry out political and economic reforms in parallel. I consider this to be a correct and prudent policy, because if we look at the democratically developed countries, we can see that the vast majority of them are also economically developed. So the material welfare, economic and social development are the main preconditions for democratic development.
Democratic and socioeconomic development in Azerbaijan goes in parallel. Therefore, I believe that the reforms in our society are conducted through evolution and are deepening. Political and economic reforms should become even deeper. Freedom of speech is fully guaranteed in Azerbaijan. There are no restrictions. According to the latest information provided to me, about 80 per cent of the population of Azerbaijan uses the Internet. Under such circumstances, there can be no problems with the freedom of speech. However, some nongovernmental organizations sometimes criticize and even accuse us. These accusations are unfounded. This is just a biased position. The reason is clear. Looking at the real situation, we can all see that freedom of speech and all other freedoms are fully provided in Azerbaijan. The freedom of assembly, the freedom of political activity, the freedom of conscience, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press are and will be provided in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan should continue to follow the path of economic and political development. I believe that our short history of independence is evidence that this is the only true way, because Azerbaijan, first of all, managed to preserve and strengthen its independent policy in the difficult geopolitical situation and did not fall under any external influence. The development of the Azerbaijani state is in the hands of the Azerbaijani people. Our country is governed by the will of the Azerbaijani people. We have achieved great economic development. We are implementing megaprojects. We have been able to assert ourselves in the world as a center of multiculturalism, and our successes in this field are now being studied in many countries. In other words, these successes are underpinned by a well thought-out policy, including the formation of a democratic society.
Journalists, of course, contribute to this development by their activities. They identify problems bothering society. I can tell you that in some cases I learn about unpleasant events from the media. It is true that I receive different information from different sources every day. Of course, I am informed about the main issues related to foreign and domestic policies, and to security issues. I learn about the issues bothering people also from the press and immediately react to it. Government officials or everyone who makes mistakes knows that the freedom of speech and press in Azerbaijan will not allow them to commit shortcomings in their work. Therefore, journalists, perhaps even without knowing this, are my assistants. I am grateful to you for this too. I am confident that you will continue to write about issues of concern to the entire society, will immediately and promptly respond to injustice and lawlessness, attract the attention of society and state bodies to these issues.
Today, on the eve of this professional holiday, I would like to share some thoughts on the development of journalism. In Azerbaijan, as in any country, of course, journalism should reflect reality. You are well aware that it is necessary to speak about this on a global scale because it is not always the case. We see that in many countries of the world information campaigns are conducted, both external and internal in nature, depending on which issue is on the agenda. Such information campaigns, of course, pursue certain goals. These goals are often perceived as a more important factor than the truth. Therefore, I think that journalism should first of all be governed by the principles of truthfulness.
As for Azerbaijani journalism, I can say that the amount of unverified, false and biased information has sharply decreased. This is seen both by society and journalists. Of course, this has been possible thanks to the activities of journalists. This has happened primarily due to a greater sense of responsibility among journalists. At the same time, every media outlet understands quite well that one can say a lie once, two or three times, but no-one will ever believe this media outlet again and it will lose respect. Therefore, the process of establishing the principles of truth in journalism, of course, deserves attention. I believe that progress has been made in this direction in Azerbaijan in recent years.
Of course, journalism should be as objective as possible because it is difficult to achieve full objectivity. Everyone may inevitably be subjective, and journalists are no exception, but journalists have a lot of responsibility. Their word can offend, create a problem or resolve a problem. Therefore, I ask you to pay more attention to issues of responsibility in journalism. These processes go in parallel with truthfulness and objectivity.
I can see that Azerbaijani journalism has become more responsible and more mature in this direction in recent years. One can rarely see some irresponsible reports, articles humiliating people, degrading their dignity or insulting them. In this sense, our journalists are much better than some of the so-called politicians. I believe that the reforms in our journalism in this direction will be continued. We well remember the tendencies that dominated our journalism in the 1990s. There was an unsightly picture at that time. In other words, insult and slander played the key role in some press organs. Today our society and journalism have developed. I think that the responsibility of journalists is at a high level now. Today, the absolute majority of Azerbaijani journalism is healthy journalism.
As for other issues, I believe that our journalism should be free from external influence. It should not fall under external influence. Azerbaijan is gradually becoming stronger. Our role is growing not only in the region, but also in the world. Without our participation and consent, no project, political, economic or any other initiative can be realized in the region. We pursue an independent policy. Therefore, no outside force can influence our course.
But since Azerbaijan is becoming an increasingly important country, attempts to exert influence on us are also growing. They manifest themselves in new forms. It is impossible to influence our political authority, so there are more attempts to influence public opinion. How to do it? Through journalism! Therefore, Azerbaijani journalism should be patriotic. Our country has problems, shortcomings and drawbacks. You should cover them, and you do. You should criticize state bodies and officials, and you do. This is a natural process. But we all need to know that this is our country. There is not and cannot be a person, organization or country that would love Azerbaijan more than we do. Therefore, we must protect ourselves from external influence. We must protect the younger generation so that Azerbaijan could always develop as an independent state. Our history, unfortunately, is such that we lived in different states and empires at different periods and were not independent. To a certain extent, this is inevitably reflected on our psychology.
Today we live as an independent, free state and people with dignity. This should always be the case. The destiny of our country should always be in the hands of the Azerbaijani people. Therefore, the Azerbaijani state pursues a very serious and successful policy to protect itself from external influence. I can say that attempts to exert pressure on us, to induce or force us to do something have dramatically reduced, also because these attempts do not yield any fruit. Therefore, we must protect our information space. This is difficult to do because we live in the Internet age. Some false information, information of slanderous or provocative nature immediately finds its place, but our national journalism, the Azerbaijani journalism should be patriotic. National interests should be above all.
We must further expand our access to external information. There are already good results in this direction. I remember talking about this at previous meetings with journalists. I said that it was necessary to open more sites in foreign languages so that we could access external information space more actively and could immediately communicate important information to the leading media. We did not have such opportunities before, and this created problems for us. Very serious and well-concerted information campaigns were conducted against us in the past: Azerbaijan is allegedly a backward state, Azerbaijan does not have development and democracy. The purpose of those campaigns was known only too well – to put pressure on us, coerce us into doing something and, in general, create a negative image of the country and then calmly secure someone else’s interests. Therefore, we tried to convey the truth about Azerbaijan to the world with the limited opportunities we had. Today, there are more extensive opportunities. Recent history shows that we have ample opportunities in this direction. Both state bodies and the media are heavily involved in this. I am glad that we are pursuing a common policy because the state and the media protect national interests, and there can be no outside opinions on nationwide issues. Therefore, we must continue to do our utmost to communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world, so that our country is better known and respected. The better known we are, the more support we will enjoy. It has repeatedly happened that a foreign delegation coming to Azerbaijan for the first time could not conceal its surprise in a meeting with me. They say that they had a completely different opinion and had been told something else. However, they came and saw what progress Azerbaijan has achieved, what a beautiful country it is, and how hospitable and beautiful the people of Azerbaijan are. Many also emphasize that there is a wonderful atmosphere in society. This is really the case. We are used to this. This is a common phenomenon for us, but unlike some countries, the overall situation, the freedom of thought and the atmosphere in society are indeed very positive in Azerbaijan.
We communicate the Azerbaijan realities to the world more broadly, and we should continue to do that. I appreciate the role of the media. This work needs to be continued. Of course, I see, I know and I am happy that we have managed to create a serious breakthrough in connection with the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Formerly, the situation was such that from our intergovernmental and interstate relations, my numerous meetings with colleagues everyone knew everything and recognized, looking at the map, who is the occupier and who is the victim of occupation. However, this information practically remained in the monopoly of the political elite. Media representatives of foreign countries, whether through ignorance or intentionally, circulated false and distorted information about this conflict. Of course, the Armenian lobby has played a major role, as they work against us every day. Azerbaijan is their main target every minute because they know that Azerbaijan is becoming stronger, that we have great opportunities, that the Azerbaijani state and the Azerbaijani people will never put up with this occupation and will restore their territorial integrity. Therefore, the Armenian lobby and politicians close to it, in particular, the so-called politicians governed by the money of the Armenian lobby, circulate false information about Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We have managed to break this trend. Today, Azerbaijan's position is gaining more and more sympathy and support both in interstate relations and in public opinion. It is no accident that the documents signed during my recent visits have a special provision related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and state that issues of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the borders of countries should be resolved on the basis of the resolutions of the UN Security Council. This is evidence of a turnaround that has already occurred in the public opinion of these countries. First and foremost, we are also trying hard and insistently saying that there must be such a provision in the documents. So there has been a turning point in the public opinion. The just cause and the fair position of Azerbaijan in connection with the conflict prevail. The enemy is seriously concerned about this. It is alarmed, it has been defeated on the battlefield and our position is now very strong in the legal plane. Historical justice is also on our side, because Nagorno-Karabakh and not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the territory of present-day Armenia is our historical land. The economically weak and poor Armenia, which can barely survive at the expense of external donations, can’t be compared to the developing and strong Azerbaijan. Our only weak point was the media space. This had natural causes, because the Armenian diaspora is well-positioned in leading countries, especially those associated with the conflict. It has extensive business networks. They have tamed some politicians. They have got into state bodies and, using these opportunities, are circulating their own position in connection with the conflict. There has been a turning point in this direction, too. We must further intensify our efforts. State and public bodies, as well as the media, should act upon a unified policy on this issue. It is the case today, and I want this policy to be strengthened.
In short, dear friends, I would like to take this opportunity, I wanted to share some thoughts related to the development of our journalism with you today. I want to say that I will continue to make every effort to develop free media as President. We will continue to take steps to resolve everyday problems of journalists. I understand well that a journalist is not a businessman or an entrepreneur. For a journalist, to buy an apartment is not an easy matter, and the state always stands by you in this. The Azerbaijani state is a strong social state. You know that we are taking all necessary measures to resolve social problems. Despite the fluctuations of the oil price, there is no delay in the implementation of social programs. The construction of the second building took four years. We must construct the third building in three years at the latest. As for financial resources, there will be no problem with that. So we will soon met with you at the opening of the third building. Thank you.