Shahin Rzayev

Shahin Rzayev

I was born on April 22, 1965 in the village of Surakhany near the Azerbaijan capital of Baku in an important oil-producing area. I have lived there all my life. My late father worked in an engineering factory, while my mother worked in a library. She is retired now.

I became a journalist by accident. After I finished my studies at the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, I was offered the chance to remain in the electromechanical engineering department and continue an academic career. But those were difficult times. The Soviet Union had just fallen apart and the war in Karabakh was going on between Azerbaijan and the Armenians. Salaries for teachers and professors were very low, and I needed to find a different way to earn money.

At that time, not many people knew how to work with computers, so I found it easy to get a job at Istiglal, the newspaper of the Social Democrats. I began to write articles for the title and was paid well. Eventually the editor suggested I should run the newspaper’s youth page.

After that I worked for other papers: Ekho, Seven Days, Zerkalo, Azadlyg. Gradually, journalism became my job.

Working at IWPR became a serious part of my education. At first, I used to mainly write myself, but then I steadily began to leave that to my younger IWPR colleagues and to pay more attention to training and editing work. Over the years with IWPR, I have spent a lot of time with trainers and with skilled western journalists, and have gained priceless experience, which I try to pass on to our students and younger authors.

I think the best part of my involvement with IWPR has been the chance to work in an international team, with journalists representing the opposite sides of the Caucasus conflict. In the course of our joint work, we have been able to gain each others’ trust, enabling us to write objective articles.

I have written many stories that I am proud of. I was particularly pleased with stories published in Zerkalo and Real Azerbaijan, in which I dealt with the bogus patriotism in society and the calls to go to war. I was criticised for it by the nationalists and the pro-government televisions stations, but I think it was necessary and important.

Being a journalist is like being an intermediary between two branches of society which have no opportunity to talk face to face. I am not a missionary, or a teacher, or a peacekeeper. These are all parts of the profession, but not the main thing. A journalist must be objective and impartial, he must think and act quickly, and not rely on prejudices or stereotypes. This did not come easy to me, and I am very grateful to my colleagues, my teachers and my pupils for their cooperation and help.

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