€ 77 410
Voluntary contributions, ordinary budget
Media Section (Directorate of Co-operation, Directorate General of Human
Rights and Legal Affairs
1 April - 31 December 2010
To assist Azerbaijan in conducting the 7 November elections in line with
the international standards on the matter.
To assist with measures to achieve fair, balanced and impartial media
coverage of the election campaign.
Activities and results in 2010
In the run-up to the presidential elections, TV, online and print
journalists were trained in Baku and in Mingachevir on the fair and
balanced media coverage of election campaigns.
TV debate between an international expert and local professionals raised
awareness amongst journalists and the general public on the
responsibilities of media in the run-up to the presidential elections,
critically assessed the media performance and considered ways of
improving the coverage.
The monitoring of coverage elections by selected TV channels and printed
media started on 7 October, and lasted for a month. This monitoring
resulted in two reports – an interim one and a final one. The final
report was presented at a dedicated seminar (Baku, 13 December 2010)
where conclusions and lessons learned were discussed.
The monitoring reports concluded that the media, especially the
television channels, largely failed to provide voters with the fair and
balanced information they needed to make an informed choice in the
elections. Only the ruling party met the legal threshold of 60
registered candidates that would have allowed free airtime on TV and
free space in state-owned newspapers. The Central Election Commission
decided to provide each candidate with four minutes of free airtime, a
welcome decision which the authorities could consider enshrining in law
for future parliamentary elections.
According to the monitoring reports, TV generally under-reported the
election. They focused to a considerable extent on technical and
procedural issues rather than political substance.
Newspapers devoted a larger proportion of their space to election
coverage, but this too tended to be highly partisan in most instances.
Papers which attempted some balance between parties and candidates were
a distinct exception.
Assessment and follow up
An important achievement of the project was that it raised the awareness
mainly of media professionals but also of public authorities and the
general public of the importance and the substance of fair, balanced and
impartial media coverage of election campaigns.
The following recommendations were proposed in the Council of Europe
report on the action plan:
Media would benefit from enshrining the principles of balance and
fairness in electoral coverage, along with a commitment to provide
information to voters, into a widely-respected single voluntary code of
conduct respected and followed by media professionals.
Media should consider offering the right of reply to criticism of
candidates, preferably through seeking the viewpoint of all affected
parties in any given story, or by offering a subsequent opportunity to
reply with equal prominence.
Media should aim at broadcasting impartial voter information programmes.
Media outlets should consider training for editors and journalists in
the skills required for election reporting.
With regard to Section IV of Recommendation No. R(99)15 of the Council
of Europe, the public authorities need to take appropriate steps to
guarantee the safety of the media and individual journalists, to help
ensure impartial reporting of election campaigns.
The decision of the CEC to allocate free airtime is to be welcomed, and
the authorities should consider enshrining it in law for future