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Azerbaijan President Aliyev continues to dominate state media’s electoral coverage

Aliyev continues to dominate state media’s electoral coverage
A pre-election poster of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev is posted in a shop window, two days before presidential elections, in downtown Baku, Monday Oct. 13, 2008. The sign of the poster reads 'Ilham Ahead.'

As Azerbaijan gears up for the forthcoming elections in October, President Ilham Aliyev continues to dominate the state-owned media landscape.

The president’s visits to various regions of the country and the government’s diplomatic activities continued to be the leading stories in state-owned media. Election coverage has also been plentiful, but it focused mainly on the preparations being carried out by the regional and local electoral commissions, says Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). The activities of the other candidates are either not mentioned at all or are referred to summarily, without any detail.

These are some of the findings of Paris-based RSF which Tuesday released the results of its monitoring of the state-owned media’s presidential election campaign coverage from September 27 to October 3. RSF has already published reports on the first 10 days of its monitoring (September 17-26 ). The monitoring is part of a comprehensive “Media pluralism in the electoral period” project that is co-financed by the European Commission.

The head of the state television station ITV, the RSF report says, gave an interview to the news agency APA in which he mentioned ITV’s refusal to give air time to opposition parties that are boycotting the election. His own channel did not report his comments. An OSCE statement on the electoral preparations was covered in an upbeat fashion by state broadcaster AzTV.

The quantitative monitoring showed state radio stations IR and AzR covering a bigger range of topics than the state television channels, AzTV and ITV. In their domestic coverage, the radio stations included anti-corruption measures, the aftermath of the war with Armenia, the regional security situation, religion, energy, culture, the election and political activities not related to the election.

AzTV devoted 26 per cent of its air time to infra-structural development and construction, 16.67 per cent to Azerbaijan’s international integration and 11.33 per cent to culture, religion, economic reforms and the electoral process. ITV focused on the electoral process (30 per cent), diplomatic activities (26.67 per cent), the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory (22.22 per cent) and religion (7.78 per cent).

When not covering the president, the monitored print media focused on Azerbaijan’s diplomatic activities (33.33 per cent in Xalq, for example) and the country’s integration into international bodies (27.27 per cent in Azerbaijan). A great deal of space was given over to the president’s decrees and letters. Other topics covered included education, border demarcation, the Armenian occupation and culture.

President Aliyev’s activities dominated the print media. In Bakinskii Rabochii, 60.44 per cent of space and 84 per cent of the photos were devoted to this subject. In Azerbaijan, it was 53.94 per cent of space and 80.5 per cent of the photos. In Xalq, it was 61.86 per cent of space and 84.66 per cent of the photos. Respublika, on the other hand, allocated a more restrained 12.74 per cent to the president and gave priority (39.38 per cent) to the work of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), compared with Bakinskii Rabochii’s allocation of 1.13 per cent to the CEC.

Only Bakinskii Rabochii assigned space to the election candidates, giving 2.89 per cent to President Ilham Aliev (as a candidate) and 2.68 per cent to Fazil Qazanfaroglu. Halq was the most limited in the range of political actors it chose to cover, allocating space only to President Aliyev, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the CEC, the parliament and the foreign ministry.

ITV led the way in the broadcast media as regards news items in which no political actors were mentioned, with 55.47 per cent as against AzTV at the other end of the range with just 6.73 per cent. AzTV dedicated 40.62 per cent of its news coverage and 67 per cent of its direct speech allocation to President Aliyev.

ITV provided some coverage to four of the seven candidates (giving them air time shares ranging from 0.70 to 1.31 per cent). AzTV allocated 4.63 per cent of its coverage to the foreign ministry and 24.52 per cent to other government ministries. The foreign ministry was the only government department covered by ITV, which gave it 11.75 per cent.

The monitoring team was concerned to see the state broadcaster AzTV regularly airing special reports on the president’s trips to the interior after the news programmes, says RSF. This editorial practice gives the incumbent an undue advantage during an election campaign, especially when the other candidates’ activities are not being covered. The team recommends this practice should be dropped in future campaigns.

Date posted: October 14, 2008 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 668