The Azerbaijani government has given 255 apartments to journalists to mark National Press Day on July 22, the Xalq Qazeti newspaper reported.
President Ilham Aliyev said at a ceremony in Baku to award apartments to the journalists that "Azerbaijani journalism develops and plays a very positive role in the society. Freedom of speech...is ensured in Azerbaijan."
But international rights organizations and media freedom groups have harshly criticized the Azerbaijani government for clamping down on independent media outlets and for trumping up charges against nonstate journalists.
The U.S.-based media watchdog Freedom House classifies the media in Azerbaijan as "not free," and Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 162 out of 180 countries in its annual World Press Freedom Index for 2017.
RFE/RL Baku correspondent Khadija Ismayilova, who was jailed after publishing reports of corruption within the Azerbaijani president's extended family, praised those journalists who "overcame their yearnings and did not receive flats as a bribe."
She added that "your home is in our hearts!"
National Press Day in Azerbaijan is held to mark the publication of the first Azeri-language newspaper, Akinci, in 1875.
Azerbaijani President Gives Free Apartments To Journalists