Saturday was a great day to be a government-friendly journalist in Azerbaijan — in celebration of National Press Day on 22 July, 255 journalists were given free flats by the government as a token of thanks for their efforts.
Founded in 2010 under former president Heydar Aliyev, National Press Day commemorates the publication of the first Azerbaijani-language newspaper, Akinci, in 1875. Along with the free flats in Baku, this year’s celebrations included the announcement of additional funding to develop the country’s press and financing to build another block of apartments for journalists.
Despite criticism of what is seen as an increasing crackdown on media freedom in the country, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke positively of the relationship between the press and the government at the opening ceremony for the new flats.
“Officials [...] know that freedom of speech and media will not allow them to have any shortcomings in their work. That is why journalists are my helpers. [...] I am grateful to you for that,” he stated, quoted by BBC News.
While representatives of pro-government outlets unsurprisingly responded positively to the news, with an editorial in the pro-government Haqqin website affirming that the team was “sincerely grateful to Mr President”, others cast the gift as an act of bribery.
Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was charged in 2015 for alleged misappropriation of property, abuse of position, illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion, in a case widely seen as connected to her journalism for Radio Free Liberty, applauded those journalists “who overcame their yearnings and did not receive flats as a bribe”.
Source: BBC News