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Azerbaijan Report: August 20, 2002

20 August 2002
Journalists Unimpressed By New Tax Exemption
The Cabinet of Ministers has announced that newspapers will no longer have to pay taxes, except on income from advertising, and that the government will refund taxes paid by newspapers in the past three years. The decision is the result of an order issued last summer by President Heydar Aliyev instructing the Cabinet to find a way to improve the situation of the media in Azerbaijan. But leading journalists predicted that the Cabinet decision will have no practical result. Some suggested that it was simply an attempt to improve the country�s international standing. The editors of leading newspapers said in an interview with RFE/RL�s Azerbaijani service that Azeri newspapers have not been paying income taxes, since putting out a newspaper is not profitable. Therefore, they said, the government owes them nothing.

Gubad Ibadoglu, head of the Union of Economics Journalists, told RFE/RL that the authorities are attempting to improve their reputation in the eyes of international institutions.

Arif Aliev, chairman of the New Generation Journalists' Union, agreed that the presidential decree is intended to deceive international institutions, but said it will not succeed.

The Azeri media is already partly exempt from Value Added Tax and customs duties for importing paper for publishing use, but newspapers are liable for payroll taxes on wages. According to officials, the president will soon issue a decree granting preferential loans to selected newspapers.

(Natig Zeynalli)

Anreas Gross, special rapporteur for the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe, criticizes the opposition boycott of the upcoming referendum on amendments to the Constitution. In an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Echo," he says that such an attitude does not promote the development of democratic principles.

According to the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Ali Hasanov, who heads the Presidential Department for Social Affairs, said that a presidential decree on granting preferential loans to the media is expected in the near future.

The pro-government newspaper "Khalg" in an article entitled "Nardaran incidents are moving towards their logical conclusion" writes that the population of the village of Nardaran has at last realized that it had been deceived. The villagers have been engaged in a confrontation with the government for more than two months, which officials have blamed on unnamed foreign influences manipulating the inhabitants of the town. Villagers deny that accusation.

An author writing only as Tural in the independent newspaper "Yeni zaman" comments on the 14 August meeting between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev in Sadarak. In an article entitled "A Meeting of presidents," Tural quotes unnamed political experts as saying that during the meeting the Armenian president agreed to support the plan for Aliyev to name his own successor in Azerbaijan. Kocharian, for his part, got the Azeri president's consent not to take back Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia will leave four or five occupied districts around the enclave, Tural writes. Then, when the Azeri people become euphoric, Nagorno-Karabakh will be officially surrendered to the ethnic Armenians and peace will be declared. According to the author, the people who have lost their lands during the conflict must rise and demand that their president get Karabakh back for them.

An author writing only as Orxan in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" claims that during the 14 August meeting Aliyev and Kocharian agreed to help each other hold on to power. In an article entitled "Agreement-will the Sadarak secrets ever be disclosed?" Orxan notes that although the parties did not agree on the Karabakh issue, President Aliyev called the meeting "important" and expressed satisfaction with the results. According to some officials, the meeting between the two presidents was held not on the advice of international organizations, but at their own request. Both Aliyev and Kocharian need such a meeting, Orxan writes. Neither mediator-countries nor international institutions emphasized it. The presidents themselves are not going to report on the results of the meeting, Orxan says, perhaps not even to Russia, the United States and the Minsk Group. Orxan assumes that the presidents reached agreement on all issues other than Nagorno-Karabakh. Orxan writes that both presidents are now more interested in the upcoming presidential elections in their countries than in settling the Karabakh conflict.

Elbrus Jafarli in the article "Hundreds of illegal buildings registered" in the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" writes that although illegal constructions were built with the permission of local authorities, most of them fall short of building norms. Some of them are situated near power lines or communication lines. According to the author, in and around Baku there are more than 100 illegal buildings. The question of their future will depend on the results of investigations by a state commission.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)