Azerbaijani government to provide free housing to journalists
The State Fund for the ‘Support of Mass Media Development in Azerbaijan’ has announced the conditions for granting free apartments in the second ‘Journalists’ House’. Journalists with at least three years of continuous length of service in one and the same media outlet and at least 10 years of service in journalism, are eligible for free housing.
Built by state budget funds, this house will be the second ‘Journalists’ House’ in Baku. The first house was commissioned in 2013 and a total of 155 journalists were allotted apartments there.
Applicants are welcome to submit applications from 22 May till 22 June. Thereafter, the Commission is expected to file the accumulated documents at the Azerbaijani President’s Administration by no later than 30 June. TV and radio companies can nominate up to 10 candidates; daily newspapers and news agencies – up to 6 candidates; while the weekly newspapers, news portals and websites – up to 3 candidates.
The apartments will presumably be distributed on 22 July – National Press Day.
This news has caused mixed reactions in public. Some independent journalists, NGO activists and social media users, believe that the allocation of free housing is a disguised form of bribing and an attempt to buy the journalists.
Mehman Aliyev, Director of Turan news agency, believes that journalists who are granted apartments for free, one way or another, fall under the government’s control. “They are no longer independent journalists. Having accepted the government’s ‘handout’, they will have to work it off.”
Natig Jafarli, an individual leader of the REAL opposition movement and an expert in economics, regards this decision as discrimination on the grounds of professional activity: “Distribution of free housing to Mass Media, NGOs and various professional associations at the expense of the state budget is a pressure on civil and professional freedoms in the country. In a country with free competition, all those categories could have found sources for earning money and buying the apartments.”
Seymur Kazimov, a media expert, believes that instead of distributing free housing the government would have better issued preferential loans: “Of course, the government shouldn’t provide journalists with free housing, but it could have taken measures to alleviate their social problems, since journalists represent a low-income category. The government could have reached an agreement with various banks on granting preferential loans only to journalists under sovereign guarantees. In that case, a journalist could have bought an apartment through this loan. As a result, the professional ethics wouldn’t have been violated and the funds would have returned to the state budget after a while.”