Free mass media, meeting the modern world standards, is being formed today in Azerbaijan. Every kind of conditions has been created for free development of mass media, the fourth power of state. All the artificial obstacles preventing mass media and freedom of expression have already been removed. Unlimited opportunities have been created for journalist researches respecting legal and ethical norms, publication of facts and views.

Assistance to mass media

Azerbaijan Republic possesses one of the leading places among CIS and Eastern European countries for quality and quantity of mass media. At present 1830 mass media agencies have been registered in Azerbaijan and 1750 of these are newspapers, 80 are TV and radio agencies.

Only 15% of newspapers and magazines were founded by governmental structures. More than 65% of newspapers belong to different political and public organizations, private structures and legal persons.

There is no limit by governmental structures on receiving of official information. Press departments of different ministries and other state bodies are responsible to provide the community with official information.

Ethnic and religious minorities face no limit in receiving mass media in free manner. Newspapers are published or brought from abroad in languages of ethnic minorities.

TV and radio broadcasting

Essential legislative measures have been taken in field of TV and radio broadcasting. Law on TV and radio broadcasting was adopted on June, 2002 and came into force on October of the same year. On October 5, 2002, President of Azerbaijan Republic signed decree on creation of National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council, fully meeting the standards of European Council. National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council was founded on January of 2003. 6 of 9 members of Council were appointed by President of Azerbaijan Republic. Council is responsible for implementation of state policy in field of giving the licenses, according to the respective law, to TV and radio broadcasting, broadcast channels and monitoring of their activity. It has to be noted that since its creation, Council has been successfully implementing its duties.

Public television

Law on Public TV and Radio was adopted on 9 January 2004. President of Azerbaijan Republic vetoed the Law for ensuring reflection of views of experts of European Council in the law and it was sent to Parliament for anew discussion. After amendments were made, Law was sent to European Council experts. On September 28, 2004 Law on Public TV was adopted by Milli Mejlis and on November 5 President signed decree on coming into force of the given law. Public TV will recently commence to act.

State secret

Law 'On state secret' was adopted in fall session of Milli Mejlis and on November 5, 2004 President of Azerbaijan Republic signed decree on coming into force of Law 'On state secret'.

Press Council

Next important step in sphere of assurance of freedom of expression and information was establishment of Press Council on 15 March 2003 at the first congress of Azerbaijani journalists. This organ was independently created by journalists themselves without interference of state. Major function of Press Council, which is independent organ, is to remove the disputes, between mass media and individuals as well mass media and private companies, till lawsuits. Council also fulfills monitoring of newspapers and implementation of provisions of code of journalist ethics prepared and adopted by itself. On March 2004 Press Council held its second congress. For discussing the current activity Council regularly holds meetings. At present Council grants sole journalist certificates to journalists and fights against racket cases widespread among mass media agencies. It should be mentioned that since its establishment Press Council has successfully been operating according to its mandate.

Freedom of information

Wide discussions were held for unification of provisions of this bill according to democratic principles. Chapter of the bill, considering creation of institute of commissioner on information issues, caused wide discussions. As it was decided, expert group will reexamine whether this chapter will be reflected in Law. At present this bill is in second reading. This law is to be adopted till the end of fall session of parliament.

At the same time it has to be noted that Azerbaijani Government takes respective measures concerning the moderation of legislation on slander. On this purpose, it is considered to eliminate provisions on slander from Criminal Code and include in Administrative Offences Code.

None of newspapers faces restrictions in their circulation. All the newspapers are freely distributed over the country. Problems that several newspapers lately faced in field of the publishing houses were technical and occurred because editors of those papers preferred to publish their papers at private publishing houses. State publishing houses made no limitation on publication of those papers.