"The Karabakh Conflict Must Be Resolved Within the All-Caucasian Context, Within the Context of Caucasian-European Integration"
An interview with Mehman Aliyev, director of Turan, an information/analysis agency.
[January 23, 2006]
In 1991 Mehman Aliyev established Turan - the first independent information/analysis agency in Azerbaijan. He is a member of the Council of Editors, and the Press Council of Azerbaijan. Mehman Aliyev has authored a number of analytical articles and publications.
- How would you assess the present state of the Azerbaijani mass media?
- The state of each media outlet is mostly determined by its financial situation. The main problem for the Azerbaijani mass media is that they're not financially self-sufficient. This situation has emerged as a result of the state's purposeful policy of taking the mass media, as a tool for controlling public awareness, under its complete supervision. For example, since 1998, advertising - the principal source of revenue - has vanished from the pages of the Azerbaijani press. It is impossible for newspapers to survive on the existing circulation volumes. Given this state of affairs the press has no choice but to sell itself and to play whatever tune the buyer orders.
- In other words, in Azerbaijan, there is not really any independent media.
- Yes, you have understood me correctly. Naturally, there are some media outlets that are trying to somehow survive independently but it's a negligible number.
- And what about your agency, Turan ?
- We are not a print medium. Many of our subscribers are from abroad, which enables us to keep our independence a bit. A few years ago I even told Heydar Aliyev that we were able to survive because we were not oriented toward the internal market. But like the others, we don't think about development, but about survival.
- What is the situation with journalists?
- For the reasons mentioned above, it's hard to put together a high-quality journalistic team. A journalist has to be gifted with such traits as integrity and competence. But because of the financial misery and material dependence it is hard to expect good results from journalists' work.
- Is this the situation in all the South Caucasian countries, or only here?
- I cannot speak for sure about the entire South Caucasus - I don't read the Georgian or the Armenian press. But judging from the information I get from various sources, the situation there is not much more promising. For example, we have been trying, in vain, to obtain from various Georgian media outlets some details about the scandal involving the head of the Yeni Fikar youth organization, Bashirli, that took place in Georgia. This contact has demonstrated to me the journalists' dependence on the government. I had a similar experience with our Armenian colleagues while trying to clarify some information related to this case.
- Is there patriotism in today's mass media?
- To some extent it does of course exist - in the person of individual journalists but not in the periodicals. But in any case, being a citizen, not a pseudo-patriot, is not at all easy, especially if one is in need.
- How would you assess the impact of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict on the mass media?
- The media in Azerbaijan do not report on the Karabakh conflict much, nowadays. There are, of course, some articles dealing with certain important events, for instance, certain measures taken within the negotiating process, or decisions taken by international organizations. But one rarely comes across profound material devoted specifically to this problem. In Yerevan, too, the press has gotten tired of the standstill in the process - after all, since 1994, when the cease-fire agreement was signed, there has been no significant progress in the settlement of the problem.
- You are undoubtedly aware of the position held by international organizations that there is a need for a rapprochement between the peoples of the two conflicting countries. What do you think-is such rapprochement possible under present conditions?
- I personally have always been in favor of normal relations between all countries. First of all, the Azerbaijani and the Armenian mass media should refrain from propagandizing mutual hatred. We should simply assist the societies in understanding the situation correctly and promote public discourse on how we can get out of this situation. But the mass media cannot solve problems that are exclusively within the competence of the states.
- Are you personally in favor of establishing relations with the Armenian media?
- In general, I'm an advocate of all kinds of contacts - not only at the media level. One should not avoid debate, one should not pretend that no Armenian version, no action, exists for information support aimed at the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. That would just be self-delusion. As they said in ancient times, "Arguments give birth to the truth."
- What is the role of the international community in the settlement of the conflict?
- Well, at present this role is to not allow the conflicting sides to resume the military operations. So far I haven't seen any serious political decision by the international community with regard to the conflict - all the decisions have been imitative in nature. I personally believe that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the All-Caucasian context, within the context of Caucasian-European integration. We should formulate the ultimate goal of a Caucasian union within the context of the European Union and advance toward it pushing aside all obstacles. We must clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel in order to get out of the darkness.