Speech of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the presentation ceremony of the prize "Friend of journalists" to the Azerbaijani President by "Ruh" Journalists` Rights Protection Committee - Hotel "Hyatt Regency Nakhchivan", March 22, 2002

Dear journalists, ladies and gentlemen!

This is unusual event for me. For the first time at last, I pleased to the journalists, and they had rewarded me. I thank the committee of defense of journalists "Ruh", its leadership for the presentation of prize "Friend of journalists" to me in Azerbaijan 2001. I want to assure that today as before, I am a friend of journalists and I will be forever.

It was said here that this prize had established five years ago. Some persons were rewarded until now, but now came my turn. However I want to say that for me as the president of Azerbaijan was not at all easy to get this prize in comparison with the rest, it was too much difficult for me. As the representatives of different professions, peoples communicating with journalists, collaborating with them, assisting them, naturally a lot of and evidently they choose and reward the well-known figure.

Journalism this is such a sphere which in the whole engage in critics, together with the rest matters, its main purpose concluded in criticism localization of defects, rendering of assistance in their elimination. Journalism always conducted this work in society, conduct today enough successfully. The people who criticize authority are mainly in the camp of opposition. Therefore to receive such prize from the camp of oppositions I think is not difficult. However presentation of such prize to the president of Azerbaijan I repeat once more is unusual event, it is not easy. Evidently, my efforts made in this sphere not only in 2001, but in previous years, at last got the recognition, estimation of the journalists and there was taken the decision about presentation of this prize to me.

I estimate this prize very highly. Our friend Aflatun Amashov said: this prize will take its place alongside with other prizes awarded to you. Naturally, I have awarded a lot of prizes. But this prize has its particular place. As most of the received prizes -these are prizes awarded to me by the state, the state prizes. There are others, indeed. But this prize is awarded to me by the journalists.

Let journalists do not be offence by me, as in the whole they are people who always are dissatisfied with all. They always try to find any shortcoming and to emphasize it. I tell about it not in bad sense. This is beautiful. However I repeat that the journalists are very exacting. In particular they make great demands to the representatives of authorities. I repeat once again that there are shortcomings and faults in our work. In spite of that they became diligent at last, rewarded me. Thank you very much.

When I have been told that the journalists estimated me in 2001 as a "friend of journalists", I did not believe. Then I have tried to clear up, what means "friend". I was told that now I am a friend of journalists. I said thank God we are become friends at last. But the journalists know there was said about this, how development have got the freedom of speech, freedom of press.

I remember the period about 5-6 years ago. There was censorship. Even in our time. Now in my time I became a friend. But the censorship was before me. There was censorship, the newspapers are controlled. If this or that article did not like the censor, it was excluded. After this the newspapers have developed struggle, as a sign of protest began let out blank pages. But we cancelled censorship, completely guaranteed the fixed by the constitution freedom of speech, freedom of press, gave large opportunities for press. Press in Azerbaijan is really very freely. And it means that a word is freely, opinion is freely.

Azerbaijan has great history. If to take a view of this great history, you can see that the word, opinion, press in Azerbaijan never was such free.

There was marked that in last year some newspapers were closed, a number of journalists were exposed to the persecution, against the journalists were undertaken other illegal acts. It is possible, such is the case. However we have tried to put and end to this. You remember, I invited the journalists, we have talked very warmly with them. After this was made changes to the law, I have issued an edict, and we did all possible in order that freedom press may live, develop, that the press in Azerbaijan will be freely always. And this in spite of that in the pages of this freedom speech is published libel, lie at times even insults to the address of the authority- all these exists.

Our representatives of authority sometimes are very worry. Speaking by a simple language, began to fuss, I was defiled, offended my honour, merit and so on. Therefore such people used the opportunity in the past, appealed to the court, the courts pronounced judgment. The judgments naturally were fair. And this hurt great damage to the press.

We remove this also. You see that now nobody appeals to the court. We explained to the representatives of the authority that today you bring an action against him, tomorrow other will write. You will bring him an action- another will write. It would be good, if you do not appeal to court. There are no courts, no fines now. Here I was asked that frozen arrears were fully frozen. For that we should find special chemical means in order not "frostbite". We should think how to act. Still are frozen. But its naturally depends on you. If you will behave yourself good your arrears will be frozen for the longer term. Otherwise, you look they will start "to thaw out". I would not like, that "have thawed". I am also the supporter of that they up to the end remained frozen.

We have rendered all assistance to the press, as it may be necessary we would help in the future. When I arrived here Gunduz Tahirli handed me a letter in which tell about the necessity of rendering help to the newspapers, press, in receiving of credits. I do not know, today everybody can get credit. Probably, they want to get any privileged credit, therefore they addressed to me.

But let`s become real friends. I want to make friend with you, journalists. But the friendship must be double-sided. It is necessary that both sides want to be friends. Today was happened such event, it happened so that we both sides decided to make friends. But let`s agree about that this friendship was not broken any more that we of the end remained friends. I want to be a friend.

I remember I have invited all interested persons to a meeting with journalists. In the list appeared the journalists of oppositional newspapers. Somebody has come and somebody is not present. I think, why? It is possible, you do not like me. But it may be you already for along time do not like me. But if we have opportunity to talk, meet, to lead an exchange of opinions, to express openly, why to take advantage of such chance? Such opportunity was exactly in this meeting. What is the difference who are the invited people, what party adhere, are in opposition to authority or in an extreme measure of opposition or in ultra oppositions - we have such -let`s sit we shall have a talk. And you can express your opinion, and I will express mine.

We are one nation, the sons of one people. We are nation, the representatives of one nation and we live together in this society. We will not go anywhere, I will not go anywhere you will not go also, what for to leave! We live together at the same native land, at the same land, at the same society. And as we live at the same society we must agree, to lead an exchange of opinions, try to understand each other.

Sometimes journalist hears about some fact, writes about it and adds his own ideas. However, investigating this fact, you meet with definite peoples and turn out that the situation is differently. Therefore I want that our friendship with journalists was constant. Know that I have always loved the journalists.

Once I have told that in the past during the Soviet Power I have supported closer relations with the journalists in comparison with other leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. My attitude has always been warm to the press. This is in my character. I always was interested in a press, read newspapers and magazines, always with attention concerned to broadcast and to TV messages. Therefore journalism was very closer to me.

Journalism is a difficult profession. It is necessary to acknowledge, that this is not an easy profession. A person of other profession comes to work in his work place, after ending some time goes home. Whether he engaged in science or works at a factory or trade, in business-does not have a difference. The journalist has not its work place. Even the editorial office of the newspaper is not the work place of a journalist. As he will be at the editorial office, look to the ceiling that he cannot write anything, he cannot work. So the journalist must maintain constant relations with society, maintain relations with people, support relations with different sections of society, to have relations everywhere in order to receive necessary information and on the basis of this information to write its articles, works in their sphere. This is not easy. I know it and I want to inform about my ideas to others.

Sometimes being in such situation journalists faced with injustice, sometimes with roughness, with other circumstances, unpleasant facts. It touches their self-esteem, insult them and they as a sign of the protest write different articles and make mistakes. Therefore, if the journalists will maintain closer relations with society and if journalists are loved, respected, assisted them in carrying out their work, activity then both society and journalists will get a profit.

We always want, that journalists were objective. I do not think that journalists advisedly make animus. But they have such profession, they must write what is interesting to the readers. If there are not any harsh features, so this is not interesting to the readers, the newspapers are not bought and so on. You know it better than me. I do not speak about it for a long time. We must take it into consideration. But the journalists should take into consideration the situation of whom they choose as the object of attacks, whom they subject to the harsh critics. If both parties begin to be considered with each other, I think in our society the friendship of all people with journalists will be provided.

Anyway, I wish to assure once again you that highly I estimate today`s award and I shall try to be the friend to journalists always. I will do what I can help to journalists. I have expressed my wishes. I thank you once more. I wish health, new and new success in the work to the Azerbaijani journalists. Thank you.