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Azerbaijan President holds mirror up to BBC journo re ill-treatment of Assange and UK censorship

In this video, BBC journalist Orla Guerin interviews Azerbaijan President Aliyev, assuming that Azerbaijan press and politics are heavily censored, and presses him on that. He denies the accusation, then asks her why Julian Assange has been held inhumanely for years, if the British and western press are so free. The BBC journalist simply won't acknowledge the situation for journalists and the media in her own country, kind of proving the president's point. Transcript below, with the pithiest bits emboldened.

Transcript of this excerpt

BBC JOURNALIST: [...] to Armenian civilians.

PRESIDENT ALIYEV: No way! We already talked about civilians. We have nothing wrong .. I think, in communications with them. And I said many times, and I think what I say, I keep the word [touches heart] that, after we liberate the territory from these criminal gangs which occupied our territory, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh will live much better. They will have more salaries, because the salaries in Azerbaijan is higher, more pensions in Azerbaijan is three times higher [than] in Armenia. They will have all the social protection. We will invest in those areas largely.

BBC: Will they have the full range of human rights, which people here in Azerbaijan do not have? Will they have a fully free media? Will they have an opposition that's allowed to raise its voice? Will they be allowed to have things that people in Azerbaijan do not have?

PRESIDENT: [Chuckles] Ah, you think they do not have it? Why do you think that people of Azerbaijan do not have free media and opposition?

BBC: Because this is what I'm told by independent sources in this country.

PRESIDENT: Which independent sources?

BBC: Many independent sources.

PRESIDENT: Tell me which.

BBC: I certainly couldn't name sources.

PRESIDENT: Oh, if you couldn't name, then that means you are just inventing this story.

BBC: So you're saying the media is not under state control?

PRESIDENT: Not at all.

BBC: And there is a vibrant and free opposition media?

PRESIDENT: Of course.

BBC: Where do I see this?

PRESIDENT: You can see on internet. You can see it everywhere.

BBC: Not in newspapers.

PRESIDENT: Why? You can see it in newspapers. Whom do you call 'opposition' here? Can I ask you?

BBC: Well, is there allowed to be an opposition here.

PRESIDENT: Yes, it is allowed, of course.

BBC: I mean NGOs are the subject of a crackdown.


BBC: Journalists are the subject of a crackdown.

PRESIDENT: Not at all.

BBC: Critics are in jail.

PRESIDENT: No, not at all.

BBC: None of this is true?

PRESIDENT:Absolutely fake. Absolutely. We have free media. We have free internet. Now, due to the martial law, we have some restrictions, but before, there have been no restrictions. And the number of internet users in Azerbaijan is more than 80%. Can you imagine the restriction of media in a country where internet is free? There is no censorship, and there are 80% of internet users. We have millions of people on facebook.

How can you say that don't have free media? This is again a biased approach. This is an attempt to create a perception, in western audiences, about Azerbaijan. We have [political] opposition, we have NGOs, we have free political activity, we have free media, we have freedom of speech - But if you raise this question, can I ask you also one?

How do you assess what happened to Mr Assange? Is that a reflection of free media in your country?

BBC: We're not here to discuss my country. No. No, President.

PRESIDENT: No, let's discuss, let's discuss.

BBC: No.

PRESIDENT: In order to accuse me, saying that Armenians will not have free media here, let's talk about Assange. How many years? - Sorry, How many years he's spent in Ecuadorian Embassy? And, for what? And where is he now? For journalistic activity! You kept that person hostage, actually killing him, morally and physically. You did it, not us. And, now he's in prison! So, you have no moral right to talk about free media, when you do these things.

BBC: Returning to the conflict, how long -

PRESIDENT: Yes, better return to the conflict [in Azerbajan], because this is not what you like. You like only to accuse, only to attack. But look at the mirror! Look! I tell many times, before coming and lecturing us, and, in your question, accusing me - it's not a question, it's accusation. You talk like a prosecutor, why? If you're so democratic, and so objective, why you keep Assange in prison? For what? You keep him in prison because of his journalistic activity!

BBC: I'm not keeping him in Prison, President Aliyev.

PRESIDENT: (Laughs). You don't like this.

BBC: It's not the question of don't like. It's not the subject of our interview.

PRESIDENT: Of course. You are not used to this. Because your [?] to attack.

BBC: It's not the subject of our interview and with respect, President -

PRESIDENT: No, it is not subject of interview, but you raise it!

BBC: You raised it -

PRESIDENT: No, you raised it.

BBC: You raised the case of Assange.

PRESIDENT: You said Armenians if you don't have a free media, you can't see how Armenians can live without opposition, that's was your -

BBC: Yes -

PRESIDENT: That was your question.

BBC: You've answered the question, President Aliev. Could I ask you, going back to the conflict, as you say, 40 days and counting - [END OF EXCERPT]


Journo was hoist on her own petard and didn't even seem to realise it. Why did she seem to feel so sure of herself?

I thought she realised it, but could not admit it, since she employed by and represents the BBC, which promotes her country's political policies. Your interpretation may be right, however, there seems little limit to mainstream media arrogance and blindspots.