The National Press Day is a holiday of our society, not just journalists. Because the freedom of speech is the cornerstone of a free society. This cornerstone was laid down 144 years ago - July 22, 1875 with the newspaper "Ekinchi", created and edited by Hasan bey Zardabi. From that time to September 1877, Ekinchi, with a total of 56 issues, became a mirror of the nation and a flag of Azerbaijani journalism. In subsequent years, newspapers and magazines such as Ziya, Keshkul, Shergi-Rus, Irshad, Kaspi, and Molla Nasreddin, published by prominent intellectuals, continued the traditions of Ekinchi. Azerbaijani journalism has undergone severe trials in different periods, but has struggled for the sake of the national language and has not turned away from its glorious path.
According to MP, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan” Hikmet Babaoglu, Azerbaijani press has gone a long and complicated way in its development history. According to him, although the history of the press as public institution is not so old, Azerbaijani press has been one of the first among Central Asian and Eastern European countries. "The great protector and caregiver of the Azerbaijani press, great leader Heydar Aliyev, who deeply understood the mission and function of the press, abolished censorship on the press in 1998. Thanks to the decree signed by the Great Leader, head office under the Cabinet of Ministers, protecting state secrets in the press and other media outlets was abolished, the Decree of 16 April 1992 on the dissemination of military secrets and the Decree of 15 April 1993 on the application of surveillance on all information were declared invalid. Moreover, the adoption of the new law on Mass Media at the end of 1999 made a significant contribution to the development of a media institution, enriching the legal framework regulating nation-wide relationships in the field. In March 2000, by the decree of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev, "Program of measures to improve the material and technical conditions of the mass media in 2000-2001”was approved.
Babaoglu noted that the Ministry of Press and Information was abolished under the system of governance reform and the National Press, Teleradio and Internet Council was set up to establish and strengthen the legal basis of the media. "Debts of a number of newspapers to "Azerbaijan" publishing house were frozen, and then canceled. In March 2003, at the congress of Azerbaijani journalists, the Azerbaijani Media Council was set up to regulate media-public relations, and media-government relations. All this, in turn, should be regarded as significant historical events aiming at the establishment of freedom of speech, opinion and press in Azerbaijan. As a result of the rational policy course under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, serious steps and the relevant measures have been taken to address the financial problem of the press. First of all, fundamental steps have been taken to address the different problems of individual journalists, who are honest and objective in their profession, and who specialize in the development of the Azerbaijani press. Following this, an important measure was taken to solve the financial problems of the press as a whole. As a result of President Ilham Aliyev's Decree "On provision of one-off financial assistance to the mass media in the Republic of Azerbaijan" of July 31, 2008, debts of media outlets to "Azerbaijan" publishing house have been completely liquidated,” he stressed.
The MP said that freezing of these debts by the great leader Heydar Aliyev, and their further cancellation by the order of President Ilham Aliyev was a fundamental historical step taken to eliminate the financial problems of the press. "In parallel, various measures have been taken to put an end to the journalist-official, journalist-citizen, journalist-businessman conflicts on the legal basis by increasing the professional reputation of journalists. Thereafter, cases of appeal to the courts regarding the activities of the media and individual journalists were eliminated. In other words, these conflicts have gradually diminished, and as a result, the number of journalists who respect themselves and their professional values has increased. This has also contributed to the positive advancement of existing journalistic trends. Press freedoms and media care have shaped a quality new media. In this period, the first fundamental quality changes in the Azerbaijani press have begun. This has been a remarkable event which conditioned the start of a new stage in quality of media in independent Azerbaijan," he said.
Babaoglu emphasized that all these steps and measures taken by President Ilham Aliyev have made special contributions to the development of the Azerbaijani press. "As a result of the measures taken and the reforms carried out by President Ilham Aliyev, the gradual decline of the negative tendencies in the media has been observed. Thus, steps have been taken to alleviate the penalties of journalists who have committed specific crimes and have been brought to account - those who have violated the requirements of the Law on Mass Media and that have contradicted the national and moral values of the Azerbaijani people. Generally, our 144-year-old national press has gone through a great development over the past period. Today, such factors as special state attention and care to the national media, and, at the same time, the highest level of freedom of speech, thought and conscience, strong material and technical and financial base of the media, creation of favorable conditions for the effective functioning of the media institutions and others should be regarded as fundamental factors that contribute to the development of our national press," added the MP.
Director of the Institute of History of ANAS, MP, academician Yagub Mahmudov said that the media demonstrate high professionalism by keeping the state interests of Azerbaijan above all. According to him, the Azerbaijani press has had a successful development. The academician added that President Ilham Aliyev solves all the social problems of Azerbaijani journalists at the highest level by taking care of the development of our press. "The First Vice President Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, play a key role in promoting our national-moral values, our modern successes and our history. We can be proud that our national press has a great history. The "Ekinchi" newspaper, which was published in Azerbaijani by Hasan Bey Zardabi on July 22, 1875, has become the first example of our national press. The newspaper propagandized advanced ideas of the era and called on people to fight religious discourse and ignorance. This is a great achievement of our public opinion history. Today, the press plays a crucial role in building an independent state, civil, democratic society, implementation of economic and social reforms, ensuring social justice and transparency in the society, protecting human rights, creating a climate of solidarity and tolerance, and the formation of national consciousness, political culture and healthy and moral values in general. All these processes in our country can not be imagined without the participation of press and mass media," Mahmudov noted.
Chairman of the Azerbaijan Trade Unions Confederation, MP Sattar Mohbaliyev also underlined the importance of national press, which was rescued from political assaults and pressures by the national leader Heydar Aliyev in 1993, in the modern democratic society under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev. According to him, all the opportunities have been created in the country for free activities of the press and free expression of the will of the journalists. "President Ilham Aliyev pays special attention to the celebration of the establishment of national press at the state level, awarding honorary titles to Azerbaijani press workers on the occasion of the anniversary, solution of their social problems, as well as providing financial assistance to the mass media, and, is particularly sensitive to the activities of journalists. Our national press, which was founded 144 years ago, will continue to work on a new level of healthy journalistic values and will not forget the social responsibility in front of the society and will not be indifferent to some of the forces that use pluralism in Azerbaijan to frustrate our state and our nation, will always be guided by the principle of civilized settlement of the media relations, observance of journalistic ethics, impartiality, professionalism, high sense of national consciousness and patriotism, attention to actual problems, respect for national and spiritual values and state interests," he said.