The decision to draft a new law “On Media” in Azerbaijan was adopted by the President earlier this year. The Media Development Agency (MEDIA) was established on January 12, 2021 by President Ilham Aliyev’s decree “On Deepening Media Reforms”. According to the decree, the agency was required to prepare a new bill and submit it to the President within two months.
Though nine months passed, the bill has not been either submitted to the President or disclosed for public discussion. Yet, over the past few months, the bill has been discussed in news agencies, such as Azertag, Trend, Report and APA.
Ahmad Ismayilov, Executive Director of the MEDIA, said that the purpose of the law is to organize the systematization in the media:
“According to the new bill, not only print media, but also audiovisual and online media outlets must go through the state registry in the same manner.”
In their interviews, both MEDIA officials and editor-in-chiefs praise the new bill and say that it is a continuation of the reforms that began in early 2019. Although reportedly experts, working groups, and website managers were involved in the drafting of the law, no information is provided on who these experts and managers are, who is included in the working groups, and based on what criteria and by whom they are selected.
However, some details were revealed about the bill from the interviews of the agency officials throughout this year.
We put together all the information about the media bill that has been released so far.
Chapter 8 of the law is devoted to the media registry and it states:
The media registry is established in the Republic of Azerbaijan for the purpose of systematization of information on media entities and their editorial offices, as well as journalists. The registry will consist of sections specifically for audiovisual media, print media, online media, news agencies and journalists.
Information on the audiovisual media entity will be provided to the MEDIA by a body formally called the Audiovisual Council by law.
According to the law, print media or online media entities, news agencies, as well as journalists will apply to the MEDIA themselves for entrance into the media registry. The rules for maintaining the registry are determined by the MEDIA.
What will be in the registry?
- Name of the media entity
- Legal and actual addresses
- Information about the founder
- Information about the owner of the domain name of the online media entity
- List of journalists
- Labor or civil law contract for journalists
- Periodicity and one-time circulation of newspapers
- Information about the content, etc.
The media included in the registry will be issued a certificate, and journalists will be issued a card. There are separate requirements for journalists to be included in the registry:
- Must possess higher education
- Not previously convicted of crimes against public morality
- Must have an employment contract
- The media entity he / she works for must be included in the media registry
- Must have at least 3 years of work experience in the field of journalism;
- or have worked in the field of journalism for at least 3 years in scientific and pedagogical educational institutions.
What are the benefits and privileges of a journalist card issued by the MEDIA with a validity period of three years?
- Free access to museums, galleries and other venues of cultural and social events
- To be accredited in state bodies
- Access to information in areas of martial law and emergency
- Concessional loans
- Benefiting from social policies
- Improved financial security
Article on “Freedom of activity in the field of media”:
Freedom of the media means that the state guarantees everyone the right to seek, receive, prepare and disseminate information in a lawful manner. Freedom of the media means creative and editorial independence, and this freedom can be restricted only in cases provided by law.
Licensing of Internet TVs
The new bill also considers the licensing of Internet television channels. In order to obtain a license for a bill, the media must meet two conditions:
- An Internet television channel must broadcast from its own website;
- Broadcasting should not be less than 6 hours a day
Ahmad Ismayilov, MEDIA’s executive director, said at an online conference on “Media ethics is a key principle of journalistic professionalism” on October 12 that the new bill was nearing completion and some articles could be amended after discussions.