Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jeffrey Gedmin met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku today for a wide-ranging discussion on press freedom and economic development in Azerbaijan.
Gedmin expressed concern about the government's intensifying crackdown on media. Aliyev denied there were any constraints on the media, saying: "We are completely free. We have hundreds of newspapers, we promote Internet use, and we encourage foreign broadcasters. You will not find any media restrictions in Azerbaijan."
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Azerbaijan ranks as the world's fifth leading jailor of journalists. In its most recent Press Survey, Freedom House classifies Azerbaijan as "not free" and ranks it in a tie with Russia -- 164th out of 195 countries assessed.
Gedmin told Aliyev that the goal of RFE/RL is to provide uncensored and objective news and information and urged the president to respect RFE/RL's mission as well as other independent media in Azerbaijan.
During Gedmin's two-day visit to Azerbaijan, he met with government officials, opposition leaders, media representatives and civil society activists. The main purpose of his trip was to meet with journalists at the RFE/RL Baku bureau.
RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Radio Azadliq, has been broadcasting objective news and information in Azerbaijan for over 50 years. It was the first international media company to break the story about the Soviet invasion of Azerbaijan on January 20, 1990. Today, it is the country's most popular foreign radio broadcaster. Radio Azadliq broadcasts a morning show, a program about Baku city life, prime time programming, talk shows, roundtables and local programs dedicated to local issues on FM 101.7 and on medium wave every day. Radio Azadliq is also online at www.azadliqradiosu.az