By Sabina Mammadli
Media Development Agency Executive Director Ahmad Ismayilov has said Azerbaijan's new media bill is in line with the country's international obligations, including Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ismayilov made the remarks in an official letter to EU Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović in response to her criticism of the Azerbaijani parliament's adoption of the draft media law.
He emphasized in the letter that no one should have any doubt that the new bill will correspond to modern media developments, challenges, and trends, as well as broaden the scope of media activities. He stated that Azerbaijan values media freedom as a critical component of a democratic society and that the country complies fully with national legislation and international commitments.
“The advancement of free media and freedom of expression is a priority for the Government of Azerbaijan, which is reflected in the establishment of the Media Development Agency by the decree of Azerbaijan's President on 12 January 2021. This decree is called to deepen media reforms with a view to ensuring qualitative changes in the media field,” he wrote.
The director went on to say that the law is aimed at strengthening mechanisms for ensuring unrestricted and effective implementation of journalists' professional activities, protecting media's creative and editorial independence and pluralism, encouraging media to report objectively and professionally and respecting the fundamental freedom to seek, receive, and impart information.
The licensing that the EU Commissioner was concerned about only applies to television and radio broadcasting and is fully compliant with Part 1 of the aforementioned Article 10, the letter noted.
Furthermore, according to the draft law, the establishment of a media entity will not require authorization from state bodies, which will allow Azerbaijani media representatives to work in a more pluralistic environment.
“Based on the experience of the European countries, the draft law provides an opportunity to maintain the notification register of the respective media entities, facilitate the use by media of simplified procedures related to their activities and more effectively protect the rights of media entities. In order to strengthen accountability and transparency before the public, it instructs State institutions to provide media representatives with detailed information about any fact and incident,” he said.
Furthermore, he stated that the drafting process was inclusive and transparent, with over 800 journalists and media experts having the opportunity to discuss the draft media law before its introduction in parliament.
Ismayilov also drew attention to the fact that the draft law interprets the concept of 'journalist' in a much broader and pluralistic context than the existing relevant national laws, and considers those working for websites and as freelancers to be 'journalists'. He did, however, emphasize that it does not apply to social networks, video sharing platforms, bloggers, or other types of activities on such platforms and that it makes no attempt to regulate or control such activities.
The media bill in Azerbaijan was passed 20 years ago. Certain changes were made, but some issues remained unresolved.
The Azerbaijani parliament passed a new media law in December 2021. It establishes the general rules for organizing media activities, as well as the legal and economic foundations for these activities, as well as the receipt, preparation, transmission, production, and dissemination of mass information. The document is divided into nine chapters and 78 clauses.
The new bill is expected to play a significant role in addressing a number of current shortcomings in the media sphere and paving the way for the development of a regulatory framework that meets the most recent global standards.
It covers every detail, from increasing journalists' professionalism to resolving their social problems. This establishes the legal framework required for better information security protection in Azerbaijan.
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