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Opposition Azerbaijani Journalists Barred From Office Due To Debt

"Azadliq" editor Qanimat Zahid
"Azadliq" editor Qanimat Zahid
BAKU -- Journalists from the opposition newspaper "Azadliq" were not allowed to enter the paper's premises today due to unpaid debts to a state-owned publishing house, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

"Azadliq" chief editor Qanimat Zahid, the only member of the staff allowed to enter the building, said the paper may not be published on August 3 because of the restriction.

Basti Ismayilova, the deputy director of the publishing house, told RFE/RL that 15 publications owe the publishing house money. She did not say how much is owed in total.

Zahid said "Azadliq" owes 16,000 manats ($19,893) to the publishing house. He said the paper is trying to repay the debt gradually by paying an additional 400-500 manats with each printing bill it receives.

On National Press Day on July 22, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev allotted 20,000 manats to 32 newspapers. Zahid says demanding the payment of debts means the government is taking back the financial aid.

The staff of a second debt-plagued newspaper, "Baki khabar," began a two-week vacation today due to the hot weather.

The chief editor, Aydin Quliyev, says the vacation is not connected to the debt problem.

"The paper owes 17,000 manats to the publishing house and is ready to pay half of the debt," he told RFE/RL.

Aliyev signed a decree in 2006 writing off various newspapers' combined accumulated debts of some 400,000 manats to the state publishing house.