Journalists from opposition-minded and independent media got nothing. At least ten of them met the day in prison.
The government donated a once-off amount of 1.23 million manat (around USD 730,000) to 33 newspapers in celebration of Azerbaijan’s national press day.
The holiday is celebrated annually in Azerbaijan on 22 July. The date was chosen as Ekinchi (The Sower), the first newspaper in the Azerbaijani language, was first published on this day in 1875.
Several official events took place such as an awards ceremony for a writing contest, organized by the State Fund for Support of Media Development under the President of Azerbaijan.
Awards were given to 114 journalists, with first place receiving 500 manat (USD 295), second place 400 manat (USD 236) and third place 300 manat (USD 177). The news agencies who announced the aforementioned results did not specify which articles received awards or where they could be read.
Ali Hasanov, the presidential aide on public and political issues, said during an award ceremony that the state cares about the press, and touched on the successes it managed to achieve:
“The world refers to Azerbaijani newspapers and journalists, whose news is reproduced around the world. An important role in this matter is played by Ilham Aliyev’s policy to ensure freedom of the media, a pluralistic society.”
Last year on the same holiday some journalists received a more luxurious gift – apartments in a specially constructed building. The move stirred up a frenzied discussion in the local journalistic community, as some fumed that only the “loyal” journalists had got flats, while others were outraged by what they said were “handouts by the state”.
Some Azerbaijani journalists met the holiday in prison. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there are ten such prisoners in Azerbaijan. The most famous of them is Afghan Mukhtarli who conducted investigations on corruption in the military. He was convicted last year to six years in prison for illegally crossing the state border of Azerbaijan, smuggling and resisting arrest. The case was widely publicized due to the journalist’s disappearance from Georgia in what was a suspected kidnapping and was later found in Azerbaijan.