An awkward question to Lavrov: journalist fired
Dismissal of Anar Hasanov, a reporter of the Lider TV channel, has stirred up a scandal: local media said, the dismissal was ‘ordered’ by the Azerbaijani envoy to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu, who intended to punish the journalist for putting a ‘provocative question’ to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.
At the Russian FM’s recent news conference in Moscow, Lider TV reporter, Anar Hasanov, asked the Russian Foreign Minister as follows: “What will be Moscow’s stance in case of launch of a counterterrorist operation in the occupied regions and their liberation from the occupant troops, and will Moscow turn a blind eye to it or will interfere in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs?’ The Minister responded: ‘As far as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is concerned, it’s no longer something abstract and it’s not exclusively a matter of Azerbaijan’s internal affairs. The developments that followed all the aforesaid have become the central theme for discussion in mass media.
The official response to Lavrov’s statement from Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov:
“The whole international community recognizes and supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. As for the peace process, the negotiation process carried out with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs is the international platform for settlement of this issue based on the norms and principles of the international law. In connection with the settlement of the conflict, international organizations have adopted numerous decisions and resolutions based on the norms and principles of international law”.
However, after Mammadyarov’s statement, in the days that followed, the media reported that Anar Hasanov, who had put the question to Lavrov, was dismissed on the order of the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russian, Polad Bulbuloglu: “The Ambassador believes that the journalist’s question and the Minister’s response to it have seriously affected friendly relationship between the two countries. The Ambassador regards the journalist’s question as provocative and he has even insulted the journalist for that.”
Anar Hasanov answered our phone call, saying he was busy and would be available a little bit later. However, afterward he didn’t pick up the phone. Earlier, he confirmed the reports on his dismissal in mass media: “Yes, I was dismissed. I no longer work at Lider TV. The reports disseminated in this regard are true. I don’t want to say anything more.”
As Ölkə.Az was told in the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Russia: ‘The Embassy is engaged in its work and carries out diplomatic activity. As for the Lider TV, it’s an independent TV channel and it knows better whom to dismiss or employ.’
Anar Shyukurov, the Head of Lider TV News Department, told JAMnews, Anar Hasanov’s dismissal had nothing to do with the question he had put:
“Dismissal of Anar Hasanov is the TV channel’s internal affair. One more employee was dismissed a few days ago. In every institution people are dismissed and employed from time to time. It’s just a coincidence. As for Polad Bulbuloglu’s order, I, as the head of the department, have never heard him interfere in our TV channel’s affairs.”
Anar Shyukurov refused to tell the reasons for Hasanov’s dismissal. At the same time, he stressed that Hasanov’s question didn’t reflect the TV channel’s position.
Did the reporter from Lider TV(which is regarded as pro-governmental) really put a question to Lavrov without the editorial staff’s consent?
Azer Rashidoglu, a political columnist: “I doubt that the Lider TV reporter could have put this question to Lavrov without coordinating it with the TV channel leadership in advance. And his dismissal was not Russia’s immediate requirement. Simply some government official, who remains loyal to a ‘good job, dog’ tradition decided to punish the journalist. However, he didn’t think of the consequences that such decisions could result in.
Journalists are arrested (for example, Rauf Mirkadyrov), TV channel (ANS) and university (‘Qafqaz’) are closed and the reporter is fired in Azerbaijan in fear of pressure on part of Russia and Turkey, which bespeaks of direct outside interference in country’s domestic affairs. It’s a shame. The head of media structure, who fires a journalist on the orders from above or from another country, has neither honor nor dignity. When I worked for the ‘Mirror’ newspaper, Elchin Shikhlinski, the editor-in-chief, was constantly urged to fire me. But he responded to those demands briefly and concisely.”
In the statement released on behalf of Ambassador Polad Bulbuloglu, the journalist’s question is assessed as ‘a provocative’ question affecting the friendly relationship between the two countries. Should a journalist think of the national interests of two states when putting his questions? Is he entitled to put questions at such news conferences without the editorial staff’s prior approval?
Rovshan Aliyev, a media expert, Median.cafe editor, says that coordinating issues with the editorial staff is not a matter of principle:
“Let’s draw such a parallel: a driver gets behind a wheel and sets off on a drive. Is he supposed to call his director every now and then, asking him where to stop, whether he can put on speed or slow down, or yield the way to another car?
The editorial staff plans a theme. Whereas a journalist should put questions so as to expand this theme. Does it make any difference, whether this question is put to Lavrov or to the local experts? To a journalist they are all equal, be it high-rank officials, low ranks, regular persons involved, or an expert whom he calls every now and then for an opinion.
The very fact that a journalist may improve or spoil the bilateral relations between the two states raises serious doubts. In this case, it’s either a ‘state’ concept or a ‘journalist’ concept that is distorted. Simply someone is looking for a scapegoat to justify his political failures, or someone is not doing his business. In this particular case the journalist was doing his business. He put a question. If he had made a political statement, his punishment would have been quite understandable.
Just image that it is 2003. The USA is going to deploy its troops in Iraq. If at that time an employee of the Iraqi TV would have said: ‘let’s voice the USA’s position’, what would have happened to him?
While the USA and UK were deploying their troops in Iraq in autumn 2003, CBS anchor, Dan Rather and CBS Evening News Producer, Jim Murphy, interviewed Saddam Hussein.
Saddam Hussein agreed to be interviewed, but under certain conditions. The interview should have been recorded only by his cameramen, his words could have been translated only by his interpreters etc. The interview was shown both, in Iraq and the USA. Thus, the international community learned Saddam Hussein’s position too.
Bush and Blair’s positions were quite clear. Nevertheless, the Bush administration requested CBS TV’s air time to respond to this interview. However, since the government suggested showing a spokesman rather than the high-rank officials, it failed to reach an agreement with the TV channel.
In other words, as far as you can see, neither a journalist was blamed for betrayal of the national interests, nor the TV channel was referred to as a ‘traitor’. Why should putting questions and asking for an opinion spoil the relationship between the states?
Aflatun Amashev, MP, Chairman of the Press Council of Azerbaijan, also commented on the journalist’s dismissal:
“At the current stage of Azerbaijani-Russian relations, the question that the Azerbaijani journalist, Lider TV channel reporter, Anar Hasanov, addressed to the Russian Foreign Minister, Serey Lavrov, was probably inappropriate. Anyway, I would like to reiterate that it’s solely up to the Lider TV administration to decide whether to dismiss or maintain an employee.”