“It has become a part of our culture,” says Zeynalov. “We are a post-Soviet, oil rich state. Internal corruption has become so bad that we have to pay bribes even going to the doctor. It is our duty to inform the people that there is another way.”
Internal corruption has become so bad that we have to pay bribes even going to the doctor.
Zeynalov is administrator, writer, and editor of Azadliq Radiosu’s Corruption Page - or Korrupsiometr - a one-stop shop for information on corruption in Azerbaijan, and a resource for those looking for texts of domestic laws and regulations prohibiting such practices.
Started in February 2010, the Corruption Page is massive - almost labyrinthine in scope. Soundtracked by a rotating assortment of rock and hip hop songs, the page boasts dozens of features, videos, polls, and news stories - all with the same pivotal focus.
In one particularly affecting video (recorded covertly), a police officer accepts money after stopping a car for speeding. In another, an interviewer asks people on the street to recount the last time they were forced to give an official a bribe. The answers are disconcertingly uniform; responses paint a picture of bribery as an almost everyday necessity. One man matter-of-factly replies that he was forced to pay a bribe to take an exam at university.
Public sentiment is anything but passive, however. In a telling indicator of national discontent, a poll on the main page references a recent Transparency International finding that corruption in Azerbaijan is getting better (note: the organization still lists Azerbaijan in the bottom 50 countries on its 2010 Corruption Index). Prompted to respond to the accuracy of the result, readers overwhelmingly responded that the findings were incorrect. “People think corruption is as bad as it has ever been,” explains Zeynalov. “In fact, it is far worse than in Soviet times.”
Perhaps the most important feature of the Korrupsiometr is that it is a resource for those seeking to combat the abuses of the system. The website features verbatim reposts of Azeri law, which, like most countries, officially prohibits extortion and the taking of bribes by those in the public sector.
According to Zeynalov, instances of irate officials contacting Azadliq following encounters with well-informed Azeris are on the rise. “They are angry that they cannot collect on their bribes,” he explains. “People will go on our website, print out the laws, and then confront these corrupt bureaucrats with documentation.”
When asked how Azadliq responds to bureaucratic backlash, Zeynalov smiles. “Oh, we just refer them to our lawyer.”
Here’s hoping that, as the Korrupsiometr’s popularity increases, the Azeri Service starts getting a lot more complaints.
- John Cleveland