Institute for Reporters' Freedom
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety was founded on World Press Day, May 3 2006, and has been registered as a public union with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice since September 2006. The organization’s reporting has been instrumental in bringing the issues of press freedom in Azerbaijan to the attention of relevant organizations and officials in the US and Europe, including information for Human Rights Watch, article 19, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists. The staff of the Institute regularly brief members of the diplomatic corps including PACE Rapporteurs for the Caucasus, the OSCE, and the European Union Delegation in Baku. The organization became a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) in Octotober 2007.
According to IRFS’ charter, the organization’s mission is:
- to provide urgently needed legal assistance to injured journalists
- to prepare reports on freedom of the press in Azerbaijan
- to, in the event of violence against journalists, organize investigations into these matters by independent journalists
- to organize training and seminars for journalists
- to prepare projects about journalist safety and the protection of their work rights.
- to organize roundtables dedicated to the problems of journalists.
- to build relationships with international journalism organizations, etc.
IRFS is constantly working to improve and expand. In 2010 it launched Objective TV, an online media outlet dedicated to providing independent news from Azerbaijan to counter the increasing government control of traditional news sources. It also conducted a 22 month media monitoring project where it monitored primetime coverage of all 9 of Azerbaijan’s national television stations and published reports on the level of political pluralism reported on these stations. This was part of an attempt to push for greater freedom of expression and a more balanced media landscape in Azerbaijan.
IRFS’s immediate goals for the future are to continue to develop Objective TV into a more professional news outlet with a higher viewership rate and increased reach in the community. It hopes to use the upcoming media attention generated by Eurovision 2012 to bring the human in Azerbaijan under the international and local spotlights, and increase pressure on the government to protect human rights and support freedom of the press. Although IRFS is well known amongst international human rights organizations and diplomatic missions operating in Azerbaijan, the Media Arts Center as well as the Sing for Democracy project, are components of a new strategy to increase the awareness and responsiveness of ordinary Azerbaijanis on the issue of human rights. This project specifically targets active youth, who are better able to reach a youth audience and have greater flexibility in the presentation of their reporting.