I don`t remember exactly, but know that we have got acquainted some 10 and more years ago. You and me frequently travel across the Globe and attend different high-level events relating to mass media and journalism.
We`re the people who acts for fair and ethical journalism. We defend, support and promote high profile in journalism. Because we believe, that only fair and ethic journalism can survive and gain respect of people all over the Globe.
You are long standing experienced journalist. When I see your column online or on paper just read it. Because I trust you and need your expertise as an experienced veteran journalist.
But unfortunately not everything looks good in The Guardian and some other internationally known newspapers. It seems some writers in The Guardian are continuously targeting my country – Azerbaijan, accusing it for gross violation of human rights. Of course, journalists can and must cover all cases of public interest and The Guardian is one of the bests to do this. But when journalists from this very popular and respectful newspaper become the tools in the hands of those serving interests of some dark circles it can`t be neither regarded ethical and fair journalism nor a journalism at all.
We, the people of Azerbaijan are eager to integrate to Europe. We move step by step, maybe slowly towards European values. We see our future in Europe.
We are the nation of the East with own customs and values. But this does not apart us from the West.
We want to keep ours` and get new values alongside. We are the nation which has provided general suffrage right for women in 1919 and recognized gender equality in 1921. I am siting these facts to remind that we are not the people of mediaeval centuries. We are the modern, secular nation, tolerant towards other cultures, nationalities and religions. At the same time we are tolerant towards freedom of opinion and expression. We are the nation of pluralist democratic society.
But some of your colleagues use to blame Azerbaijan for everything and at any time. If something happens in my country those writers like to write only negative sides. But they could try to be fair and show to readers positive sides of my country as well.
The Guardian is writing about Azerbaijan every day. This can be good. But as a quite dedicated reader I find your writers` stance towards Azerbaijan biased and one sided. And unfortunately this is usual case.
Owen Gibson, whom was denied accreditation for the 1st European Games held in Baku June 12-29, 2015, is a good sports writer. But it seems that he mixes sport with politics. While he was denied accreditation for the Games, I just wanted to act with statement. Investigated the case and found out that denial is not baseless.
Owen Gibson was provided opportunity to come to Azerbaijan December 2014 to cover preparations for the European Games. He has been welcomed and was free to go through and collect information, interview people. He is a sport writer. I mean, he is professionalized on sport. But while going back home he just wrote about everything, I`d say, sometimes except sporty preparations. I understand that any journalist would like to get more from the journey to the country which is quite a far land. I use to write my journey impressions as well.
But while you`re invited and provided free opportunity to go through and get in touch with different people, to see around this does not mean that your reportage can be one sided. Even if you are a sport writer and are invited for the sporty purposes, it seems to me not ethical to go beyond. I`d not do that. But anyway if a sport writer wants to use an opportunity and cover issues other than sport, he/she could be balanced. As I see Owen Gibson just delves deeper and “finds” only negative in my country. Just would like to ask: why?
Was not there indeed any positive? Couldn`t he see anything which could be presented to readers as a good side of Azerbaijan? Of course there are tons of positive in Azerbaijan, but sometimes some Western journalists don`t want to see them.
And the headlines on Azerbaijan in your newspaper are usually negative as well. I`ll give some examples.
“Disastrous consequences for Baku’s ‘clean up’ ahead of European Games” (goo.gl/ybb2N6),
“Azeri government behind foreign media ban, say European Games officials” (goo.gl/Y8P6ZH)
“Journalism students highlight plight of jailed journalists with bracelets” (goo.gl/5H7i86)
“Baku reminds us our top athletes are overgrown infants” (goo.gl/9c4rYS)
“Turning black gold into sporting glitter: what Azerbaijan tells us about modern sport” (goo.gl/DE3cTh)
And The Guardian having these materials regarding as not enough uses materials from other media outlets and this time again negative ones.
Again, we could condemn banning of foreign media from covering the Games. But why The Guardian does not mention that about 8 hundreds foreign journalists have been accredited and are covering the Games? If Azerbaijan would ban all foreign media (as it comes out from The Guardian piece), why no one else except very few journalists including Owen Gibson are only ones to be banned?
By the way, Nick Cohen accuses Team GB sportsmen for not raising his voice of protest in Baku.
Why the GB sportsmen who don`t know anything about a country, where he has arrived just a few days away and know nothing about political developments would protest?
We are open and free society. And we are happy to be part of Europe. But when we see, that some circles in Europe target us continuously we just get mixed up.
Does the Europe want open and democratic Azerbaijan? I think, yes. If so why some circles in Europe use to choose only the way of pressure on Azerbaijan?
This kind of pressure would prevent Azerbaijan`s efforts to join European family. Would the Europe like to lose the country which is trying to join it in full? I think Europe would not like to lose Azerbaijan. And we, the people of Azerbaijan would not like to lose the European way too.
That’s why I`d like to call on all those journalists through esteemed veteran journalist like you to stop one sided and biased reporting on Azerbaijan. If you are to cover human rights issues, we are ready to communicate and provide balanced information. The journalists in the West should not be a tool on the hands of certain campaigners who themselves are the tools on the hands of global businesses and financial giants. This is the truth behind of campaigns targeting Azerbaijan.
And at the end of my open letter I would like to ask you to publish it on The Guardian. In case of need to discuss the issues I`ll be happy to do so.
With friendly regards,
Mr. Azer Hasret, Chairman
Central Asian & Southern Caucasian Freedom of Expression Network (CASCFEN)