The ceremony began with the playing of the national anthem of the Azerbaijan Republic.
At the ceremony, the chief-of-staff of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Academician Ramiz Mehdiyev, said:
- Dear representatives of the press media!
Ladies and gentlemen!
Today the Azerbaijani national press is turning 135, and this remarkable occasion is celebrated throughout the country. In accordance with a resolution by Mr. President, official ceremonies to mark the 135th anniversary of the press have been conducted in all districts, towns and organizations, and we are marking this remarkable occasion at the Gulustan Palace too. I would like to sincerely congratulate all representatives of the press on behalf of the head of state and wish you further success and happiness.
The foundation of the national press was laid on 22 July 1875, when the Akinchi newspaper was published. The first issue of the newspaper defined its mission as follows: “Our time requires change. Those who have always trusted us and followed our word have progressed and moved ahead because of the time change.” Therefore, from its first days, the newspaper outlined a development path for our nation.
It is gratifying that solemn celebrations of national press anniversaries have become traditional in Azerbaijan. The foundation of this tradition was laid by a decree signed by nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev in March 2000 on marking the 125th anniversary of the national press. Continuing the policy of the great leader, President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev signed a resolution on 10 June 2010 “On celebrating the 135th anniversary of the Azerbaijani national press”. The resolution lays out specific tasks before the Presidential Administration regarding extensive celebration of the anniversary in the country. According to an approved plan, the Presidential Administration in conjunction with relevant agencies have ensured that anniversary celebrations are conducted throughout the country.
Dear ceremony participants!
The Azerbaijani national press has covered a very difficult and, at the same time, diverse and honorable road. In almost two years of its existence, the Akinchi newspaper, launched by educationist Hasan Bay Zardabi in 1875, united progressive-minded intellectuals around it, published articles about the development of science, education, culture, arts and agriculture, struggled for cultural progress of the people and against religious prejudice and ignorance. Known for its educational approach, the paper rose to the level of a school reflecting fundamental principles such as modernization of the national press, ideological purity, promotion of common national goals, enrichment of the literary language, objective coverage of events. The newspapers and magazines published afterwards, such as Ziya, Kashkul, Shargi-rus, Hayat, Irshad, Fuyuzat, Taza Hayat, Hagigat, Taraggi and Molla Nasraddin, continued the ideas and traditions of Akinchi, thus contributing to the national revival and self-identification processes which gained momentum in the early 20th century.
After the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established in 1918, the national press was actively involved in promoting the ideas of freedom and strengthening the independence. Legal documents reflecting the freedom of speech and the media were adopted at that time, and the Azerbaijan Newspaper started functioning under the leadership of Uzeyir Bay and Ceyhun Bay Hacibaylis. In the two years of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic’s existence, a total of 129 newspapers and magazines were published in the country.
In the Soviet time, the press mainly expressed communist ideas and functioned in tight ideological shackles and under censorship. At the same time, it was then that the number of newspapers and magazines increased, TV and radio journalism emerged, while the geography of the press expanded to cover all spheres of life. In Soviet times, the Azerbaijani press managed to preserve the rich national traditions of our people, provided extensive coverage of all aspects of life in the republic, continued the educational function, thus contributing to the developments and processes unfolding in the sociopolitical and cultural life of the republic.
After Azerbaijan regained its state independence, extensive opportunities emerged in the area of ensuring the freedom of speech and information in Azerbaijan, forming a democratic and free press, developing a legal framework for it and securing economic independence. As a result of the political will and tremendous effort made by nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev, who returned to political administration in Azerbaijan in 1993, the obstacles hampering pluralism, freedom of speech and the media were removed, while the legal framework regulating the activities of media outlets was brought into line with international standards. By a decree of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic dated 6 August 1998, the Cabinet of Ministers department on the protection of state secrets in the press and other media was abolished and censorship on the press removed. This opened up new prospects for the development of the national press. In order to ensure consistency of this policy, the Ministry of the Press and Information was abolished in 2000 and the state gave up its function of control over the press. The First Congress of Azerbaijani Journalists in 2003 established the Press Council to perform the function of self-administration of the press and regulation of relations between state bodies and the press.
The Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic, the Law “On the mass media”, adopted in 1999 and subsequently updated in cooperation with international organizations, and the Law “On access to information” adopted in 2005 provide full guarantees for the freedom of speech and information and independent activities of the press and journalists.
The policy and traditions of Heydar Aliyev are being successfully continued in Azerbaijan today. The formation and development of strong, independent and objective media adhering to the principles of statehood and advocating national interests represent the bottom-line of the state media policy.
The material and technical base of the press has strengthened and remuneration for journalistic work significantly improved in recent years. According to a resolution of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev dated 8 February 2006, newspapers’ outstanding arrears to the Azerbaijan Publishing House in the amount of 400,000 manats were paid by the state. Since 2005, about 300 mass media employees have received state awards and titles. In 2005, a total of 30 newspapers received 2,000 manats each. In 2008, a total of 38 print media outlets received 5,000 manats each, while in 2009, a total of 39 newspapers received a further 10,000 manats each in assistance from the state.
The “Concept of state support for the development of mass media in the Azerbaijan Republic”, approved by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev by a resolution dated 31 July 2008, is an important document envisaging comprehensive actions towards ensuring freedom of speech and information and independence of the media. The Fund on State Support for Mass Media under the President of the Azerbaijan Republic, established in 2009 to undertake the issues reflected in the Concept, is implementing a broad action plan. With this aim, the Fund received 1.3 million manats from the state budget in 2009 and a further 2 million manats in 2010. Necessary attention will continue to be paid to this sphere in the future too.
As a result of the policy to ensure freedom of speech and information, the Azerbaijan Republic currently holds one of the leading places in the CIS and Eastern Europe for the number of media outlets. Over 4200 print media are registered with the Ministry of Justice, more than 50 news agencies are registered by relevant state bodies. There are 36 daily, about 100 weekly and over 80 monthly newspapers in Azerbaijan.
The freedom of thought, speech and information is an important part of the political course and democratic achievements made by President Ilham Aliyev. The government of Azerbaijan is determined to continue meeting its obligations in the area of democratic development.
I would like to congratulate you on this holiday again and wish you further success in your work in the name of our independent statehood.
Dear ceremony participants! Please note that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has attended the ceremony to inaugurate a new building of the Azerbaijan Press Council and presented state awards to members of the Council’s Board of Directors. By resolutions signed yesterday and today, Mr. President allocated financial assistance for media outlets and awarded a large group of media representatives. Additionally, with the aim of improving their housing conditions, the decision has been made to allocate 5 million manats from the Reserve Fund of the President to the Fund on State Support for Mass Media under the President of the Azerbaijan Republic for the construction of apartment blocks for them. Now I would like to give the floor to the head of the department on public and political issues of the Presidential Administration, Ali Hasanov, who will familiarize you with these resolutions.
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The head of the department on public and political issues of the Presidential Administration, Ali Hasanov, informed the ceremony participants of resolutions signed by President Ilham Aliyev “On providing media representatives of the Azerbaijan Republic with honorary titles”, “On awarding media representatives of the Azerbaijan Republic with Progress Medal” and “On financing the activities to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the Azerbaijani national press and on provision of one-off assistance to mass media of the Azerbaijan Republic”, all dated 21 July 2010, and “On measures to strengthen the social protection of Azerbaijani media representatives” dated 22 July 2010.
Then, winners of the competition organized by the Fund on State Support for Mass Media under the President of the Azerbaijan Republic on the occasion of the 135th anniversary of the national press were awarded. The executive director of the fund, Vuqar Safarli, announced the results of the competition among journalistic articles on different topics. The chief-of-staff of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Academician Ramiz Mehdiyev, presented awards to the winners.
In conclusion, the first “Supreme Media Awards” established by the Press Council on the occasion of the 135th anniversary of the national press were presented.
The ceremony ended with a concert.