Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Report Assists Azeri Transparency Campaigners

Activists monitoring Azeri government spending say officials more inclined to listen to them following IWPR story.
By IWPR staff

An IWPR article about Azerbaijan flood victims’ attempts to get financial aid (Azerbaijan Flood Victims Press for Damage Money) is said to have helped spending transparency activists gain cooperation from officials, and won compensation for one woman.

The article was republished in several of the country’s leading online sites and newspapers, including Yeny Musavat, Azadlig and Qafqazinfo.

The media that carried the IWPR story highlighted its finding that hundreds of people who lost their homes in spring flooding last year say they have not received the compensation they were due.

“Maybe after the international media’s thorough investigation of this issue, the government will treat the victims of natural disaster more seriously and fairly,” one newspaper said.

Kura, a pressure group that monitors government spending, praised IWPR’s work, saying that officials became significantly more cooperative after the article’s publication.

“We can’t say that local government officials have become more polite to us, but at least they have started to read our reports and respond to them,” said Oqtay Gulaliyev, a member of the organisation.

The article has also contributed to resolving the problem of one of the families affected by the flood in May of last year.

“We read the article and learned that the house of Amina Shahmamedova (who was born in France as Joanna Botteau Jacques), a widow of an Azeri World War Two partisan, was damaged in the flood. But, by mistake her name was not on the list if victims. I informed Abulfaz Agaev, head of the local executive authority in Imishli district, about the problem and he gave instructions for immediate reconstruction of her house,” said Chingiz Balayev, a spokesman for the Imishli authority. 

Joanna Botteau Jacques herself was delighted with IWPR’s intervention.

“I would like to thank you for writing about our problem. No one would have listened to us without your article. When they learned that a foreign publication had written about our family’s problems they immediately started to rebuild of our house,” she said by phone from her house in the village of Murzala in Imishli district.

“It is unfortunate though, I think my French origin and my late husband’s services to his motherland affected their decision. Apparently, local authorities thought that an article in the international press about the careless treatment of a French woman, who’s also the widow of a partisan, would be a big minus for them. The problems of my neighbours still remain unresolved.”

Rovshan Hajiyev, an investigative journalist, said that the international media had an important influence that local publications do not have, meaning IWPR’s role at times of disaster could be very significant.

“Authorities generally ignore signals from the media, but when international publications cover social issues it helps public organisations to do their job,” he said. 

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