Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Haydar Aliyev at the meeting with the journalists dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the National Press in Azerbaijan - July 22, 2000

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is already two hours and a half that we are here. I think this meeting is of paramount importance. I attach much significance to this. From your speech and mood I feel that you share the same views.

I repeat that this meeting is devoted to the 125th anniversary of the democratic press. While celebrating anniversaries, appreciating our history and past, indeed, we try to deal with the existing problems and take appropriate measures for the future. In this context, this meeting is of great importance.

Speeches were diverse. Serious criticism were made with regard to pressure on newspapers. These criticism were different. I do not want to repeat them. Clearly, some of them were impartial. However, there were also true ones. I think that we should put aside the biased criticism and speak about the unbiased ones.

I declare that the views expressed and shared will be compiled, and I shall review them. Eventually, we shall witness all measures taken. You may be confident.

Some proposals were made. Most of them related to the financial assistance to newspapers by the government, and there were other requests, too. We can handle some of them. Today I can not say for sure what we shall do or what we shall not. I made an order while organizing this meeting. Some projects and decrees have been developed by our administration. I shall sign a decree in two or three days that will incorporate issues with regard to the proposals today and those that are at our disposal. I can not say for sure that the decree will heal all the wounds. However, it will help you realize your wishes.

You know and the persons who spoke here said about it, too that Azerbaijan celebrates 10th anniversary of democratic, free and independent press. However, our democratic press a 125 year old history. We can not forget our past.

I know that you live with your own cares and this one becomes number one for you. If we celebrate this anniversary from the point of view of our statehood and history of our nation, indeed, we should appreciate our past. In reality, we are proud that the Azerbaijani nation was able to establish a democratic newspaper 125 years ago in the East, in the country in which Islam was worshipped.

We are proud that our secular theater has a 130 years history. We are proud that it distinguishes us from other regional nations. That is the democratic and secular ideas did not necessarily appear today or yesterday but 125 years ago, when Hasan Bey Zerdabi, publisher of the newspaper "Ekinchi" along with Mirze Fatali Akhundov put forward this initiative. In those years, it was not a simple, but a complicated issue. Thus, it took place 125 years ago and we remember "Ekinchi" for 125 years, the people involved in the publication of a newspaper risked their life. Imagine how patriotic and courageous they were. Publication of a newspaper in Azerbaijani in those years was directly linked with high risks. And they took this risk. After a short time, "Ekinchi" was closed. Afterwards it was published as an attachment to papers in Russian.

As you know, Mammad aga Shahtaxtinsky published the newspaper "Shergi - Rus". On the initiative and financial support of Zeynalabdin Tagiyev the newspaper "Kaspi" was printed in Russian. This is our history. The press founded by Hasan Bey Zerdabi developed. As a result of this, a great Jalil Mammadguluzade published the magazine "Molla Nasraddin". I repeat that it is an exceptional case if we take into account the whole Muslim world of that time. "Molla Nasraddin" became popular not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the entire Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran and Turkey.

That is, our intelligent people created these democratic ideas and secular values in those years. They awakened our people, and revived the feelings of patriotism and love for the nation. Subsequently, prominent man of art and letters Uzeyir Hajibeyov edited newspaper "Azerbaijan" in the years of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan 1918. in those years the newspaper "Azerbaijan" contributed a lot to the spread of the ideas of inde;endence.

If we divide the 125 years of our history into periods, the first period will be from July 22, 1875 roughly to 1920. This era is a remaekable period in the history of the Azerbaijani nation. This era defines the period where secular and universal values and democratic ideas appeared. Obviously, no one gave it to us. This was done by the intelligent and courageous Azerbaijanis.

The newspaper "Azerbaijan" edited by Uzeyir Hajibeyov was a great newspaper. That is a bright page of our history.

Then begins the second stage of the history of our press. It begins with the establishment of the Soviet power in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani press lived 70 years under trhe Soviet rule. We know, maybe the youth do not, even in the communist regime in 1920s, in 1930s and in 1940s "Ekinchi" was commemorated with great pride. A great number of researches have been devoted to newspaper "Ekinchi" and Hasan bey Zerdabi as its editor. If you review the history you will understand that even under the rule of the totalitarian regime with its communist ideology, our press developed and grew.

As you are know, the magazine "Molla Nasraddin" was published until 1932. I remember that satirical magazine "Kirpy" (hedgehog) was published from 1950s. What was the target? It was the revival of "Molla Nasraddin" journal. I do not know in what condition is "Kirpy" today. I remember that this magazine played a crucial role in our society in the 1950s, in the1960s and in the 1970s. If the magazine published a caricature of an official or secretary of a district party committee or somebody else it was a big sensation.

That is, this period marks the second greatest period of the democratic press. Evidently, democratic principles were based upon the communist ideology. However, take the newspapers of that time as an example. For instance, the newspaper "Communist" was publishing critical articles. Or other newspapers, such as "Bakinsky rabochy", "Azerbaijan gencleri", "Molodyoj Azerbaydjana", "Sovet kendi" and others were publishing critical articles as well. With the critical articles they were, in fact, contributing to the solution of many problems in the society.

I remember that I was reading newspapers everyday when I was the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. At that time there were not so many newspapers as today but there were some. What I was reading in the newspapers? I was not reading how cotton is grown or how a cow is milked, or what is done in a specific factory. I was looking for critical articles. I am not saying that critical articles were encountered every day. You can take them from archives and look through them. If I found a critical article I used to phone the editor and ask "why?" Because it was frightening to publish critical articles then.

Please, understand me correctly. I was appointed as a head of the state in 1969. One of the journalists mentioned that at that time he wrote an article titled "Michaylo is in the city". This phrase was invented about me in 1969. When I was appointed the first secretary, no one recognized me, because before that I worked as a chairman of KGB. For about 2-3 months I visited different parts of the city, for example I was going to stores, using cabs and trams in order to understand whether people were deceived or not. That is why the phrase was in use and spread.

As you know, "Michaylo" is the nickname of Mehdi Huseinzade, who fought against the German Nazis. At that time he was called "Michaylo" in Italy. Thus, "Michaylo is in the city" was said about me as well.

What did I witness? Directors of stores and taxi drivers found and sold my pictures in order to recognize Aliyev. For example, once I queued for meat I was standing in a meat queue. For what? Because at that time there were three different kinds of meat. I remember it very clearly. One of them was for 3 manats 20 kopecks, the second one was for 3 manats 50 kopecks and the third one, most probably, was for 3 manats 80 kopecks.. What was the butcher doing? He was selling the third type of meat instead of the first one, or he was deceiving people for a half kg when he was selling 3 kg of meat.

I queued for twice or thrice. I caught them while deceiving me and I called the police then.. I personally did the same for several times in order to make them understand that it was not acceptable. However, I could not do that after three or four months because they already recognized me. Therefore, the phrase "Michaylo" came into being.

Why critical articles were published then? As the head of the country, I began to criticize the negative issues in Azerbaijan. I reported on them. You can get them from the archives. In 1969 and 1970 the world press was writing about the processes ongoing in Azerbaijan. It was impossible to fight against corruption in the Soviet Union. We dismissed a minister, a secretary of district committee and others for taking bribes and for abusing the power. The measures taken then provided the newspapers with topics for their articles.

Most of correspondents wanted to write about the negative facts but they were scared of the government. When the government rendered assistance and supported them they were inspired. I remember that the newspaper "Communist" wrote an article on "The events in Lankaran" in the 1970s. You might recall the terrible situation in Lankaran.

Haji Hajiyev (chairman of the Union of the Azerbaijani Journalists): Yes, we do.

Haydar Aliyev: Then the editor of the newspaper "Communist" was Agababa Rzayev. I read the article and understood how terrible the situation was.

Then, the Bureau of the Central Committee was dealing with these issues. I raised the question in the Bureau in 10 days. I discussed the issue and dismissed all the officials of the district, and eventually expelled them from the Communist Party. This was equal to death. This ultimately inspired the newspaper "Communist" and they exposed such events in Goychay and other districts.

I repeat again that such things depended upon the attitude of the leading party. Such things happened in other republics of the former Soviet Union, too. I remember, the price of our newspaper "Bakinsky rabochy" was one kopeck, but it was sold for 25 manats in Yerevan and Tbilisi. What was the matter? Because the same process was going on in these republics as well. But it was not allowed to expose them. "Bakinsky rabochy" was a popular newspaper there. It passed from hand to hand. I remember that there were such kind of secretaries of district party committees in Yerevan that appreciated these views. They were saying that one newspaper was passing from hand to hand for 50 times and only then it was torn.

ElmiraAkhundova (correspondent of "Liberty" radio station in Azerbaijan and of "Obshaya Gazeta" of Russia): Mr. President, your interview to "Literaturnaya gazeta" was greatly applauded.

Fikret Goja (secretary of the Union of Writers, people's poet): such articles were published in "Literaturnaya gazeta".

Haydar Aliyev: "Literaturnaya gazeta" began it later. I mean the outset of the 1970s.

I think that my actions were fair. But after my resignation they used them against me.

I remember that in those years I read an article titled "Golden chain" in "Bakinsky rabochy". What was it about? Girls were attending classes with golden bracelet. What about now? I have no idea. But then it irritated me a lot. Why should girls come to classes with golden bracelets? Even in the developed countries and in rich families it is out of the question.

I raised the question to be discuss at schools and eremove the problem. Recently I have heard from a parliamentarian that "Haydar Aliyev was violating the right of the people who wore bracelets or watches". Indeed, I remember. The Japanese watch "Seiko" had just appeared then. It was so expensive, more than five our monthly salaries. I was witnessing that the secretaries of the district party committees wore Japanese "Seiko". In one of the meetings I asked the attendees to raise their hands in order to see their watches. I asked them how they afforded to purchase "Seiko" watches. Your monthly salary does not enable you to purchase it. How did you buy it? After all, they could not say a word. Now I am criticized for what I have said. Surely, I did it. I am doing it now and will certainly do it in future, because morality is of paramount importance for us.

Fikret Goja mentioned "Literaturnaya gazeta". "Literaturnaya gazeta" published in Moscow was more independent among other newspapers in the Soviet Union. This is why, all were reading this newspaper and its circulation was much higher. Elmira Akhundova knows it well enough. Elmira, in fact, you were not the correspondent of the newspaper then but you became its correspondent later.

I really liked "Literaturnaya gazeta". It had good relations with me. We held a great conference on the moral education in Baku in 1979. I made a long report there. Then , it spread the entire Soviet Union. A correspondent came from "Literaturnaya gazeta" and asked me to give an interview aboput my report in the conference. The whole page of the newspaper was dedicated to the interview. The title was "Let justice overcome". It was a phrase by Nizami Ganjavi.

Elmira Akhundova: Indeed, it is Nizami.Ganjavi`s phrase.

Haydar Aliyev: Obviously, I used Nizami.Gancavy`s phrase. This sensation spread the entire globe. For what? Although I was the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan I clearly indicated the negative aspects in the Soviet authority and society.

I remember that Andropov was the Chairman of the Committee of the State Security of the USSR and member of the Political Bureau. After a while he called me. He noted that my interview caused a great sensation. I asked in what meaning? He indicated that there were positive and negative elements. I asked what the positive and negative elements were. He pointed out that the positive was that people witnessed these problems and they were content that someone was courageous to publicly mention them. Not an ordinary person, but a high official said that. There were also opponents. I asked why? He said that they were not willing to reveal them.

There were many such articles then. If you wish, you may find and read them. I was also fighting against the bribery in the admission to higher schools. For example, what did I witness in 1970s? There is a law faculty in our State University, 50 students were admitted each year. Once I noticed that those who entered the law faculty were predominantly (95 percent) the children of prosecutors, judges, and ministers. That is, if the father is a prosecutor, then his son and even grandson had to become a prosecutor as well. What about others from different families? Even some who had not fathers. How can they enter the law faculty? Then the faculties of history and Oriental Studies were prestigious as well. I banned the admission of the children of those working in the law enforcement agencies, such as police, prosecutor`s office etc, to these faculties. This created a good spirit in the society.

Now I encounter some people in police and prosecutor`s office. They say that only due to my efforts they entered the law faculty. Otherwise, they could not because they came from villages. They were poor, and did not have money to bribe or any protection to enjoy.

I did everything for the well-being of our nation. Even in the Soviet time, some lawyers argued that Haydar Aliyev violates human rights. Andropov told me it. I asked him what he thought. He replied that I was right. I asked what about the lawyers? He said that he had called the attorney-general and asked him to shut their mouth, Haydar Aliyev was right.

What happened afterwards? When I resigned from the Political Bureau and was jobless, I was accused in some newspapers. For instance, I forbade the officials to build summer cottages. For what? The monthly salary of any official in the Central Committee or of the secretary of the district party committee was 320 manats. He did not have other financial resources to construct a summer cottage, then how did he afford it? Obviously, he either abused his power or took bribes. That is why, I banned it. Some officials had summer houses. Thus, I sacked them and eventually punished them.

Today I share the same view. Sometimes opposition newspapers write about villas. What should I do now? Then it was the Soviet time and I prevented them. Now someone is a businessman, he has the right to build, another one is an official, but he also builds. Probably he builds it thanks to his illegal incomes but he does it on behalf of someone, and therefore, it is impossible to prove whether it is his or not. I can not investigate the case, but I see what is going on.

On the other hand, it is a positive, because we want the formation of entrepreneurs and businessmen, free trade and development of the economy. That is, if a person has a legal income, then he can build a house or villa and so forth. But there are people employed in state structures, and it means that they can not afford it. In fact, they do. How to distinguish? I did it then. What was the result? After my resignation in Moscow, as I mentioned before, I wanted to give an interview, but they did not take. Then, the newspaper "Communist", to which I gave a full support before, discussed its critical articles and took necessary measures, wrote an article about the illegal actions of Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan". That is, I banned the construction of a summer house and admission to the law faculty and so on. Indeed, I did not pay much attention because I consider that I was right and I still believe that I am right. Each period has its own laws.

That is I want to say that there were such journalists and courageous people in our press then. They just needed protection and support.

As you know young producers Eldar Guliyev and Rustem Ibrahimbeyov had shot a movie titled "In a southern city". Then I was not working in the Central Committee, but I headed the KGB. This film is demonstrated today, but it was forbidden then. Why? As if the movie demonstrated the negative sides of our nation. The movie was forbidden by the officials here. And the, Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow also banned it because it created a negative image of the police; there was a policeman who took a manta from each one and let them in.

I repeat that the film was banned for these reasons. I watched the movie and saw that everything was OK. I phoned Moscow, the Minister of Internal Affairs. I asked him whether he denies any bribery in the police system. He said that the movie disgraced the police. I asked him what it disgraced. Was it a disgrace if someone told the truth?

If I was not there it would have not been allowed. Moreover, during my term of office, Rustem Ibrahimbeyov along with Rasim Ocagov made a movie under the title "Investigation". You are familiar with it. The movie was made with my initiative based on the materials we acquired on corruption and other illicit actions. But then, it was banned here. Why? They were arguing that "this issue is our internal affair, but the movie will be shown in the entire Soviet Union. All would think that there were corruption and lawlessness". I did not support these views and today I do not share these opinions. We should not conceal what we have. The longer you hide it, the worse it would become.

Our writer Anar wrote "The Summer days of the city". Some disliked the performance arguing that the "prosecutor" takes bribe. I also watched it and liked it so much. Then I declared that the performance was fascinating. I added that there should be a movie based on it, and furthermore, it should be staged in Russian.

That is, such things existed then as well but the then regime obstacled them. Now the press is entirely free. We lived 70 years under that condition. In the past decade the press was independent, in fact, not the entire decade. For example, in 1990 there were independent newspapers like "Azadlig", "Seher", "Azerbaijan" and "Aydinlig". When was "Aydinlig" started to be published?

Mahal Ismailoglu (editor-in-chief of "Xalg gazeti"): since August, 1990.

Haydar Aliyev: They touched upon the key events in our life, therefore all were reading them enthusiastically. I was reading "Azadlig" newspaper everyday, because all the articles were impartial, as if they came from my heart.

Afterwards, new newspapers appeared. We can not flatly argue that our press was entirely independent in the past decade. Our press gradually developed. Notably, liqudation of censorship, military censorship and of all impediments on the press in 1998 led to the creation of a number of newspapers, and thus, it became impossible to remember all. I, as a president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, am confident that it is a positive case.

I think that our press is in period of the transition. That is, if a newspaper is closed, it fights to get published. After acquisition of freedom it tries to take revenge and thus publishes articles full of lie and spreads rumours. Independent or opposition newspapers, as you call, compete for causing sensations. I am not surprised at it. I think it is one of the characteristics of our transition period.

I believe that the newspapers must be improved professionally. Time will come when the number of newspapers will decline as a result of competition, and criticism in these newspapers will be healthy, fair.

I believe it. Do not worry about it. Try not to libel. It was mentioned that some newspapers and journalists were being sued for libel. No one was fined or indicted by court, was it? But was the court entitled to make a decision? Indeed, because our law says that if you insult me, I sue you for libel. I repeat that courts are entitled to take appropriate measures. I frankly say that we prevented that. At time passed, people got accustomed to. This was the support of the leading party to the opposition and independent newspapers. We did not let any newspaper be fined or suffer. Gunduz Tahirli mentioned that he had two criminal cases. It might be three or four. But you are not indicted.

As you witness, in my speech I criticized the opposition newspapers once or twice for their unjust articles. I still hold this view. For example, there are certain newspapers that mention the name Heydar Aliyev in 10 or 15 articles. Everything has a certain limit. If you write about Heydar Aliyev, then write one or two articles. What is the aim in mentioning "Heydar Aliyev did this or that" in 15 articles? It is not normal.

I am not concerned about it at all. I am sincere with you today. For example, in 1988 certain articles were written in Moscow and here to libel me. Then I was so furious because I was greatly astonished. I could not imagine that the state, the party, and the system, which I served loyally and contributed a lot through decades, were indifferent to my life. And the defamatory articles appeared with the direct order of the Central Committee. Or those who ordered such kind of articles were people that I once raised, promoted, and eventually appointed to certain posts. Not personally mine, but during my leadership in Azerbaijan I supported them.

They purchased apartments and became MPs. It all happened thanks to my support and care. And when they libeled me I got very furious. But afterwards I forgot everything and did not care who wrote what. That is, I passed this period.

I know what I do, and thus I am responsible for everything I do. What they write what does not concern me. I am confident that the Azerbaijani public opinion is in my favour. I not mean that everyone thinks that Haydar Aliyev is good. There are opponents of Heydar Aliyev; one of them is dismissed or something happened to the other. There are such people and it is OK. In Azerbaijan, if someone was adored so much and loved by all it would have been abnormal. Such thing does not exist in any part of the globe.

I know that the majority of people in Azerbaijan count on me, appreciate my service, and thus highly appreciates the necessity of my leadership. My opponents enjoy reading newspapers five times a day. But they form minority. Most people are not like them. You know that most people abhor such newspapers. Therefore, the opposition and independent newspapers should not tarnish their images. There must be a balance.

I repeat that I criticized the opposition newspapers before once or twice, and I still share the same criticism. However, I do not criticize your today`s speeches. I consider that all the speeches were OK. All the criticism made here will be reviewed. What is just and fair will receive necessary feedback. We shall take measures on the possibility of your requests and proposals.

My objective, duty and goaly, as President of Azerbaijan, are to build a democratic society. Gunduz Tahirli mentioned that some do want to return to the past. There will not be return to the past in Azerbaijan. You are right in saying that there are some who really want it but as long as Heydar Aliyev is President, there will be return to the past in Azerbaijan. There is no return to the old system, no way to the restoration of socialism, communism and totalitarianism. We go forward, follow the road of democracy, pluralism and freedom of press, and we shall follow it further. It is not an easy way, but a difficult one.

Some believe that if jump over the river everything changes completely. It is impossible to change the human psychology within a year or two. But we change it. This process goes rapidly in one, slowly in the other. We change it now and shall change it in future. Our actions are aim at it.

I repeated several times that independence of Azerbaijan is irreversible. Freedom of press is irreversible in Azerbaijan. Let no one be concerned about it. Other issues should not concern people either. The policy pursued is irreversible enough. I will pursue it the end. I will conduct it myself. Newspapers keep writing from the morning until the evening "What about Haydar Aliyev, who will substitute him, what about this, what about that?" No one should worry about it. Haydar Aliyev is here with you for three hours. Today I told you what I have done. This is Haydar Aliyev, with you. This is my health, my logic, my energy and my ability. I shall justify my people`s confidence and meet their expectation till the very end.

The crucial issue for us is to settle the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Garabagh, liberate the occupied territories and return IDPs to their home.

Some of speeches demanded to inform the public of what is going on with regards to the conflict. My dears, you must understand that if it is under way it should not be made public because it is not public that deals with it. For instance, some parliamentarians make a speech requiring discussion on Nagorno- Karabagh conflict. What will you gain if you discuss it? Discuss it for ten times, then what?

Armenia does not fulfil the resolutions of the United Nations and the recommendations adopted in the Lisbon summit of OSCE. I held a number of meetings and conducted negotiations with the presidents of Russia, USA and France. Let`s tell the truth. If there is someone like me equal to my person, logics and rationality then tell me, I shall send him to go and negotiate. You know that they deeply respect me. You know that I have friendly relations with them. However, the issue remains unresolved. Last year we were close to the resolution of the conflict but some forces prevented that.

The strategic location of Azerbaijan make it interesting for many forces. That is why, if we have not reached 50 percent of the solution of the conflict, then it is senseless to say what we do and what we don`t. What will that give to us? I shall never say a word on it. Most things are familiar to only 3 or 4 people, others don`t know.

Do not worry about these issues. When I understand that it is beyond my capacity and someone else can do it, then I shall ask him to do it. But as far as it is in my capacity and I do it and I will do it further.

I noted that it is the most important issue, but at the same time our economy is developing. We maintain it. Let us talk frankly. Most of the opposition, independent and partisan newspapers write that the Azerbaijani economy is collapsing and the country is in decline. My dearest, it is not true, it is a lie. Everything is measured by comparison.

Since 1995 the economy of Azerbaijan has been developing steadily. And today the journalists of "New York times" and "Economist" informed me that after meetings with different groups of people they have realized that it is because of Haydar Aliyev that there is stability in social and political life of the society, and people are working and living in peace. It is a fact that none of them existed five years ago. There was a civil war in Azerbaijan seven years ago. It is a great progress that there is peace now. You can go to the seashore, to any cafe or a tea house in any time without fear or restriction. However, you could not do it in 1992 and 1993. It was not possible until 1995 when we eliminated the military group OMON. (special military detachment)

Now it is claimed that this or another person is a political prisoner and that is why we must release him/her. They are not my personal enemies! They were destroying the country. The court has sentenced them for their crimes. And their photos appear in newspapers everyday, and it is demanded to release them. Nothing can be achieved in this way.

We need a strong state for the present day. If we do not establish a strong state, Azerbaijan will be destroyed by some internal and external forces. You have to know this. Therefore, you have to be objective at least in such of issues.

For example, some days ago I was listening to the representative of the World Bank. I watched it on TV, and I hope you have seen it as well. He stated that Azerbaijan holds the first place among the CIS. What can we do any more? We cannot achieve the development level of USA or France. And we cannot even achieve the development level of Turkey. It is out of the question.

Those who do not understand economy claim that some fields of economy or plants do not function. They do not understand what kind of plants they are, what kind of goods they produce, what technology they use, what is their capacity, what products are exported. Brothers and sisters, I know them all. I know them for hundred percent, I know what they are capable of. First, I am fully aware of these factories. Second, most of them were founded in 1970s. If they functioned at that time and in each plant 4, 5, 6, 7 thousand people were employed, and moreover, they were all under my leadership, then I am a leader today as well. And I have more authority than before. If they do not function at all or do not function in full capacity then there are objective reasons.

They write that agriculture is in decline. It is a lie. We conducted a land reform. Now grain is too much, we don`t know what to do. But I was very much engaged in grain problem in 1994. Have the people forgotten the bread queues? Have you forgotten it? We do not have this problem today. What about meat? I remind you that in the Soviet time, at the outset of 1970s, meat was given with coupons. Most of you are young, you have not seen it. But there are some people here, they know it. Meat with coupons, do you remember?

Haji Hajiyev: yes, I do.

Heydar Aliyev: a kilogram of meat and half of a kilogram of butter were provided to each person a month. But now streets are full of meat and other things. This is the result of our job.

For example, there is no inflation in our country for the last couple of years. Such thing does not exist in any country. What does the absence of inflation mean? Money people earn has value. Once there is no inflation, there is abundance of products, prices go down. Ultimately, it increases the purchasing capacity of our people. In the absence of inflation people receive more salary compared with the time when there is an inflation.

These are statistics. The outcome of the last half year exists. For example, GDP increased more than 7 percent. Industrial products enhanced 4,5 percent, while agricultural products increased 7 percent. Other figures increased as well.

We provide salaries and pensions on time. For example, in Georgia and Armenia, the neighboring states, people do not receive their salary or pensions for about 4 or 5 months. How did we achieve this? The reason is that we implement our budget. We maintained our industry, levy taxes and revenues. This is why we provide our people with salaries and pensions on time.

It does not mean that everything is fine. Not, indeed. There are poor people. The fact that people are living in tents always troubles me. Furthermore, unemployed people are disappointing me as well. But it is impossible to realize everything with a day or a year. The fact is that we go forward and will go further.

Apart from all the revenues, we have benefitted 150 million USD from the "Contract of the Century" signed in 1994. We have received most of it and it is in our bank. In 1994 we had only 10 million USD currency reserves. Now we have 800 million currency reserves in our bank. Do you realize it?

This is why, I repeat that it does not mean that everything is all right, people live well. Not, indeed. But one must be just and fair. Independent and opposition newspapers see everything black in Azerbaijan. It is unjust. People do not reconcile with this injustice. Indeed, some people read them because they think differently but the majority do not.

Thus, I recommend writing on negative facts but you must be fair. There is no need for rumours and libels. It was also mentioned that in newspapers very often conceal the source information and the author of the article. This is not a new technique. It was not used in the Soviet time but in foreign countries. Now it is used here as well.

If the information is true and you do not want to disclose the source, then write it as it is. If it is fabricated, someone makes it up, then it is not just.

My recommendations to you are the followings. First, improve your professionalism. As you know we have many journalists. That is, in terms of a number there is not a shortage. But in terms of quality we have problems. Perhaps it is natural. Initially, there were so many journalists and newspapers and only then we need to improve the quality. Try to focus on quality now.

Some views were sounded on the training of journalists. It is rational. We have an idea, probably I shall include it to the decree, to set up an Institute of Reporters. You mentioned that students want to get to the law faculty but due to a low score they eventually get to the journalistic faculty. The Journalistic Institute would ultimately require special rules for applicants and necessary subjects for journalists. Let us make the admission with multiple choice exams but on the basis of requirements of journalism. Moreover, it should include an exam to check applicants` capacity. In that case, only those with journalistic abilities will apply for. As a result, good journalists will appear. But I do not know whether we can provide the institute with a teacher staff. Indeed, if we have such professional journalists.

Vahid Mustafayev (President of ANS TV Company): Mr. President, There is no need for the Institute of Reporters. A political scientist, doctor or others should be trained as journalists.

Haydar Aliyev: That is, you object to this proposal?

Vahid Mustafayev: Yes, I do. It is impossible to have such an institute. Creativity is a differentr thing.

Others: We want the establishment of Institute of Reporters.

Heydar Aliyev: Vahid, you may hold your own view. It is your opinion. You see, others approve this proposal.

I heard various approaches. We shall analyze them and hold a discussion.

I am glad to meet you. Do not doubt to my esteem, respect to journalism. I think those who write lies, they are also journalists - let them be. There is a saying in Azerbaijan: "Time will show". Whoever passes this period will become a respective journalist. Whoever does not then he must search for another profession. It is about separate individuals. As a whole, this profession is of paramount importance. In a democratic, legal and secular state journalism is a significant profession and press is a valuable field. This is my view and I shall never change.

I extend my esteem to you, to the Azerbaijani journalists. I congratulate you on your holiday once more. I wish you good health and success in your work.

Thank you.