Our Analytics 11 september — 13:01

Escape from Azerbaijani journalism like from USSR (Free flight)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

The last press-conference of the Minister of Education, Emin Amrullayev became the talk of the town for the entire narrow stratum of the small intelligentsia and the rare intellectual part of our establishment. There are no questions to the minister: Emin Amrullaev coped with his role brilliantly, once again demonstrating high professionalism, deep intellect and excellent elocution. There are questions to pathetic journalists who are unable to ask an intelligible question. The tragedy of journalism begins precisely from the moment when a journalist no longer has any questions to ask a minister or an official.

It only remained to observe with pain in one's heart and curses on one's lips the pathetic semblance of Azerbaijani journalism, whose representatives are not able to figure out what to ask the minister. And if only that… It's much worse than you might think. With great difficulty journalists were expressing their thoughts in the form of incoherent, illogical, primitive sentences consisting of subjects alone. The journalists came to the meeting with the education minister not only without questions and without thoughts, but also without a clear understanding of the conceptual problems of modern education. And with their wretched interpretation they pushed him into harsh judgments, sometimes outright impoliteness. 'I don't understand what you are talking about and what you want to say,' the usually cold-blooded Amrullayev repeated several times, almost gnashing his teeth. The minister was right as never before. But there are no questions to him and the new Aliyev government, just as there are no objections. With them we are like-minded people and associates, confident in the absence of alternatives to acceleration of reforms.

Emin Amrullayev did not understand what the journalist was asking him about

Azerbaijani journalism died the day it was weaned from asking questions. When it was forbidden to reason. And voice its reasoning out loud. Why are we now surprised that a journalist is powerless to formulate an ordinary question? Not so long ago in our country, for an extra question and excessive curiosity, minister Ziya Mammadov could give a journalist a mouthful, prosecutors Zakir Garalov and Rustam Usubov could beat him in the teeth, and general Chovdarov could even strangle him not in some dark corner, but in an olive grove... Eldar Mahmudov could shave that journalist's head and send him to some God forsaken dungeon for about 16 years! In just a few years, one of the most primitive neo-Soviet ideologists, Ali Hasanov, who, with all his crooked appearance, Hitler's moustache and long sleeves of a village jacket, expressed a shabby feudal-serf understanding of political life, turned irresponsible Azerbaijani journalism into faceless stenography. He was at the origin of the stupefying propaganda bullshit. Gathering around him queer images and merchants parasitizing on journalism, which was turned into a paper trade.

One spelling mistake in the surname of a common oligarch, who was difficult to classify as a nobleman, merchant or bourgeoisie, was equated with a crime on a national scale. Of course, the new-born Azerbaijani journalism in the hurricane 1990s had grandiose mistakes and problems with responsibility, professionalism, conscience and political engagement. But this did not give grounds for abolishing journalism itself and turning it into a 'total dictation.'

Once, 20 years ago, I clashed in polemics on the air of the first independent TV channel ANS with my friend, intellectual Anar Mammadkhanov because of his seditious thought about the longed-for idyllic picture of the future of Azerbaijani journalism. Mammadkhanov said: 'My dream is a newspaper, the editorials of which will be about the main sports news of the country.' During that period, Mammadkhanov was very close to power. But exactly ten years later, having lost his parliamentary seat and his publications, in Kyiv Mammadkhanov passionately spoke about the longed-for freedom of speech and thought. Proximity to power dulls, sometimes burns conscience and a sense of proportion. And only its loss returns the sobriety of mind -- how can we live without public control and the fourth estate?

In Kyiv, Anar Mammadkhanov spoke about freedom of speech

During the 'magnificent decade' -- the second oil boom -- the Azerbaijani authorities nurtured and cultivated the irrational idea of ​​the so-called anti-problem journalism, believing that along with critical voices, an end would be put to the existence of the very problems in politics, economy, culture, public consciousness... It was completely meaningless battle with the reflection of problems in the mirrors. They smashed mirrors, smashed dishes, smashed chairs, only exacerbating the problems themselves. In the perception of the authorities, journalism was presented in the form of a convenient Soviet printed word smoothing out its own guilt with a sweetly-praising syllable. Instead of nationalising the liberal-globalist media, according to the Russian-Turkish experience, Ali Hasanov chose the Sino-Turkmen way of levelling the political landscape, exterminating critical voices, fighting financial self-sufficiency... A neo-Soviet form of ideological coverage of events was chosen, voiced by the catchphrase of the Brezhnev era: 'AzerTAc is authorised to declare...' The information field of the country was turned into one stupid, cumbersome, insane, similar to 'Brezhnev's eyebrows' AzerTAc (Azerbaijan State News Agency) and empty news agencies identical in form and likeness, which filled the grey everyday life by copying AzerTAc news. Even the creative processing of the grey cloth of the officialdom was punished. It was an untouchable 'verse of power.' In order to give a human face to this wretched machine, replicating press-releases about the successes of the petrochemical industry, it was hidden under the beautiful glossy cover of meaningless magazines that were displayed in the reception rooms of ministers and oligarchs. Beautiful, expensive, sophisticated, multi-coloured and at the same time empty gloss was considered a sign of good taste. Like hidden beautiful Czech dishes in the Soviet sideboards of Romanian furniture. With a clever expression of faces, millions of petrodollars were written off for gloss, and profits multiplied the wealth of an ideologist in a country jacket.

This is how, for almost two decades, poverty-ideologeme and cool gloss with an oil smell coexisted in Azerbaijan. Which the entire readership renounced, fleeing to fiction, foreign media and detectives of Chingiz Abdullayev.

And the face of the generation became 'Soviet'

Meanwhile, Ali Hasanov, together with Eldar Mahmudov, not for the sake of self-interest, but only by the will of the oil era, finished off the last critical voices. First on TV channels. Then in the newspapers. Then in the newsstands... Finally, by 2010, the clearing of the information field was successfully completed in Azerbaijan.

With the suppression of every 'firing point' telling about corruption in Zardab and the Ministry of Agriculture, Ali Hasanov replenished his oligarchic capital with a new shop and the Palace of Happiness, and Eldar Mahmudov sent the earned on blood billion to offshore.

And in Azerbaijan the hour has come for the unique conquest of scientific and technological progress -- the Internet and social networks. The axe turned out to be a poor helper in the fight against this know-how -- an overseas phenomenon. Information has become an intangible consumer product. In the fight against know-how and artificial intelligence, as well as the chaotic anti-logic of the new platform for the dissemination of information and communication, it was impossible to cope with the method of containment of the 1970s. In addition, the information policy of Hasanovism and Mahmudovism began to bear fruit. In Azerbaijan, journalism has become a scorched earth. Journalists have been tamed and taught not to reason, not to ask, not to think, not to object, not to argue and not to dispute. Instead, they taught them to diligently handle press-releases of Azerbaijan Transport Agency, to ask leading questions to the demoniac Deputy Prime Minister Hajibala Abutalibov, who, despite the new appointment, still considered himself the mayor of the capital, to get slapped on the back by another Deputy Prime Minister, Abid Sharifov. Who, like the tribosaurus Tagi Ahmadov, in high spirits, could in the literal sense of the word obscenely swear at journalists in front of cameras. Journalism was rapidly degrading, or rather, it was simply losing its taste for life. The sense of the journalist's life obliged him to sit out in the 'swamp' for the day, moreover, lower than grass, quieter than water, at an expensive government table and a fiscal laptop, burying himself in a monitor while processing Ali Hasanov's new thesis on the development of tea growing in Lankaran. Abstracts were submitted through WhatsApp, by mailings and directives. But at the same time, this salvation, called WhatsApp, all these years remained the journalist's best friend, a kind of dissident kitchen, where in the evenings one could pour out the soul to a colleague about the intolerance of mortal existence in this disgusting environment. Many became inveterate drunkards in this era of stagnation. Once, in one of his interviews, Chubais admitted that if Gorbachev had not come to power, the entire generation of research fellows of the Soviet Academy of Sciences would have become inveterate drunkards out of hopelessness.

Journalism lost in a battle with a gangster in a general's uniform

Journalist stopped writing. And what was he to write about? The clever hand of the censor will remove any thought that claims to be a metaphor. The only dream of a journalist was a successful escape from journalism, as once from the USSR. Into any sphere of life, even health care. Pay attention, once the best journalists in the country found peace and shelter in the chairs of the official representatives of state departments and state committees. Fortunately, the number of ministries, state committees and state agencies in our country went to hundreds, and maybe even thousands. Everyone will find work. A unique situation when there are several times more media bureaucrats and censors than the number of journalists themselves.

Journalism began to die out not only spiritually, but also physically. The younger generation is afraid of the journalistic fraternity like the devil of incense. How can you try to write when you are forbidden to write? In addition, low salaries, the threat of reprisals, and the shaken reputation of a man living on handouts. Journalism, once a prestigious and top-notch elite profession, is home to people who leave the labour markets with nothing. And applicants enter the faculty of journalism, who a priori know that they will not get into more prestigious faculties. The Faculty of Journalism has become something of a library faculty for second-grade students...

Yes, everything is just so sad in our long-suffering and extinct journalism. There is no one to work with. Almost time to close one's site! Needless to say, if the average age of our editorial staff is 60-70 years old, and without our colleagues from abroad, invited authors, we simply cannot survive. How to work further? This is not an idle question, but the truth may seem trivial. Without creative freedom and freethinking, the profession of journalism in our country, as in any other country, cannot be revived. Journalism and stenography are incompatible concepts, antitheses, and they will never take root. This is how it was in ancient Rome, it was so in Britain, it is happening in the United States and Russia, it will always be so. Creative freedom alone will resurrect journalism killed by the bureaucratic class. Journalism, which was turned into a part of the bureaucratic class. Give freedom, but punish for irresponsibility! If, of course, Azerbaijan needs journalism...

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