Virtual Parallels

Print Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan

Print Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan

The two interviews dwell upon the current issues, faced by the print media in Armenia and Azerbaijan, the possibilities of the solution of these issues and the prospects for the print media’s developments as compared with other mass media. 


You Are Free to Write Whatever You Wish, Yet It Will Have Null Effect

-How many newspapers are published in Armenia and where do they stand among other media (TV, radio, online media, and social networks)?

-I do not know the exact number of print media outlets in Armenia. All I know is that 11 dailies are published in the capital. Surely this a large number for our market, for the readership has significantly shrunk. I can judge by the example of my newspaper: the number of copies of our newspaper is currently 3000 – 3200, while in 1996 we would print 40.000 – 45.000 copies, and we were not the largest. The second reason for the decrease of the circulation is that the larger part of the population of Armenia resides in the capital, and in my opinion, it is too much to have 11 dailies for such a readership. By my rough estimates, the total average circulation of the 11 newspapers printed in the capital daily does not exceed the circulation of our newspaper as of 1996.

According to some surveys, only 5% of the population in the Republic read newspapers or receive information from the print media. This is a very small indicator. The majority of the population is dependent on television. Television has lived up to unbelievable sizes; it has become a mode of entertainment due to the low level of the socio-economic status of an average resident in Armenia. The only recreation such an Armenian has is TV. On the New Year’s Eve an Armenian family spends its savings on a large TV-set, places it on the most central spot in the house, for this appliance is believed extremely important to them. In the evenings, instead of spending their time outside to relax, the family sits in from of the TV set. And the radio, in its turn, never gained its appropriate position between the newspaper and TV. That slot in the scale has remained vacant. We have numerous radio stations, which are fully absorbed in commercials, recreation and music, and we have a couple of radio stations that broadcast news. TV has come to occupy the place of the radio, too.

Electronic media are developing very dynamically, but especially at the expense of the print media. The most surprising and most important thing I see in studies on media outlets is that people get 18% of the information they learn from sources who are their friends, acquaintances and relatives. This means that there is no confidence in media. What the neighbor says is much more trustworthy for them. 

-How many pro-government, opposition and independent newspapers are there? How many copies do they issue? Are there any newspapers, published in the languages of ethnic minorities?

-At least 55 – 60% of newspapers consider themselves oppositional. I do not consider the anti-governmental print media oppositional, these outlets are only party organs. This media is biased and does not allow for any criticism addressed at their block and is acting as a “killer,” since it intimidates those who disagree with them. That press is against, rather than opposing. There is another subtlety here: our society likes newspapers to criticize. When meeting me, people often ask why I “did not show this or that man his own place” in my newspaper, people enjoy this process.

In Armenia newspapers are party affiliated without identifying the party. We have newspapers that constantly vituperate the authorities. There are also newspapers which praise the authorities. There are no independent newspapers at least for the reason that they are not self-sufficient: all are dependent on sponsors. As for newspapers published in the languages of ethnic minorities, we have newspapers published in Russian. The newspapers published in other languages are fewer, they probably and not regularly circulate only within community circles.

-How much do newspapers cost in Armenia and how do they sell in the capital and in the provinces? Where are they read more – in the capital or in the provinces?

-Since 1994, newspapers in Armenia have been sold at 100 AMD, except for a few. That is to say the price of newspapers has remained unchanged for 18 years, while everything has changed and has become very expensive in the country. There is no print media market in Armenia; we do not publish by market principles. For example, the cost of a copy of our newspaper currently amounts to 135 AMD, but we sell it at 100 AMD. Under such circumstances the newspaper cannot be considered a business project.

The larger number of newspapers is distributed in the capital and in 2 – 3 larger cities. This is true for all newspapers printed in the capital, with the only exception of the Republic of Armenia that is an official newspaper. No newspaper is distributed beyond Gegharkunik Marz. It is interesting to note that some newspapers in Gyumri and Vanadsor have the same circulation as a daily in the capital.

-What are the main problems of print periodicals in Armenia?

-I am not optimistic with regard to the future of the press unless we undertake anything and I believe that the representatives of the press have a share of their fault here, too. The number one problem I can mention is that no investments are made into the newspaper business, which results in no more than 8 pages in our newspapers. There are no commercial advertisements; we mostly publish announcements and notifications. We do not have color print. Newspapers survive due to sponsors’ money and this is what causes this decline.
We do not provide the readership with what it needs. For example, state agencies have days off on which we work and on these days the newspapers do not know what to write about. The content of newspapers does not go beyond the triangle of the President’s Office, the RA National Assembly and the RA Government. Our newspapers do not cover the society much.

The print media is fully free. You can write whatever you wish. Years ago violence was used against journalists, in 2010 – 2011 some editorial offices were sued with an aim to make them go bankrupt, but this has stopped now, too. You are free to write whatever you wish, yet it will have a null effect.

Under These Circumstances, the Survival of the Print Media Is Merely Impossible

-How many newspapers are published in Azerbaijan and where do they stand among other media (TV, radio, online media, and social networks)?

Answer: In Azerbaijan public authorities, municipalities, political parties, non-governmental and other organizations, agencies and businesses, as well as ordinary citizens who permanently reside in the country enjoy the right to set up a print media outlet. It does not require a license to be granted by the executive authority. It suffices to provide a formal notification within 7 days before the release of the first issue. Inmates, citizens whose disability has been verified by the court, parties and unions that have not passed the state registration process, or whose activity is prohibited by the law cannot become founders of a media outlet. The foundation of media outlets by legal and physical persons from foreign states is regulated by intergovernmental agreements.  As of the end of 2011 there were 4300 media outlets registered in the country over 4100 of which were print media outlets. However, the real number of newspapers that are issued with some periodicity, just as it was some 10 years ago is a bit more than 300.

-How many pro-government, opposition and independent newspapers are there? How many copies do they issue? Are there any newspapers in the languages of ethnic minorities?

Answer: Newspapers are divided into independent, party-affiliated, and pro-government outlets. The Office of the President is a co-founder of two socio-political outlets, the Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers have each established one. There are few party-affiliated outlets, and they are not very popular with the public. However, the majority of independent outlets can be called such only conventionally. Many newspapers, that have acquired a new legal status after the change of the founders as party organizations or their leaders, continue to demonstrate a vividly expressed position and follow the same political line. There are more editorial offices which being unable to ensure a continuous publication of the outlet due to the extremely low advertisement incomes and low level of sales, find secret sponsors to fund their activity (often from among the authorities) and become propaganda instruments, preserving the official status of an independent medium.

The vast majority of media outlets are issued in the Azerbaijani language. At the same time, there are several national newspapers, including weeklies in the Russian language. The circulation of the Saturday issue of the Zerkalo (Mirror) is claimed to be 10 thousand copies. The issues of Lezghin, Kurdish, Talish and Jewish communities are printed in small numbers and do not always sustain periodicity.

-How much do newspapers cost in Azerbaijan and how do they sell in the capital and in the provinces? Where are they read more – in the capital or in the provinces?

Answer: The newspapers are sold at 40 – 60 gyapiks (39 – 58 Euro cents) in Azerbaijan. There are about 80 regional newspapers, the majority of which are the print outlets of the local executive forces. They are published mainly with a circulation ranging from 500 to 1000 and not more often than twice a month. That is why we do not yet have to speak of the serious role of regional press in the Azerbaijani journalism. However, it should be mentioned that in three towns in the republic (Yevlakh, Minghechevir, and Massali) quite large weeklies continue to be published with a one-time circulation of 1500 to 7000 copies. The newspaper in Yevlakh exists due to the support of the local authorities, the two others operate due to grant money and the limited incomes from advertisements.

Departmental or trade publications that are mostly sold via subscription make up another category of newspapers. Today there are over 30 such outlets in Azerbaijan. The economic situation these newspapers issued 2 – 4 times a month have found themselves in is stable since they are supported by state departments and enterprises that directly allocate money for them or organize subscription to them. In some cases the one-time circulation of such newspapers exceeds 20 thousand copies.

All national publications of Azerbaijan (approximately 200) are concentrated in Baku. The only newspaper that is issued 7 times a week is the Yeyni Musavat that has the highest circulation among the socio-political publications in the country (12 thousand copies). There are also 32 newspapers that go into the category of weeklies and are published 5 – 6 times a week. Their  circulation ranges from 1000 to 8500 copies a day. 

5 companies are dealing with the sale of newspapers and magazines. Street trade is widely practiced. Along with large newspapers that have their own mechanisms of dissemination some 10 small companies are engaged in the street trade of print products. The system of the newspaper and magazine distribution is complex. Subscription is a minor way for the sale with independent and oppositional media outlets. For pro-government ones, on the contrary, subscription ensures the realization of 80% of the circulation.  

-What are the main problems of print periodicals in Azerbaijan?

Answer: Advertising continues to be a major issue, for it is supposed to ensure the self-sufficiency and independence of the media outlet. Another issue is the lack of one’s own printing machinery. Only two newspapers have their own printing machinery – these are the Express and the Zaman. However, the media outlets do not suffer from the serious lack of machinery capacity. About 25 small and mid-size print shops exist in Baku today, and there is a public publishing house – “Azerbaijan” – where the major part of periodicals is printed.

The volume of advertisement of the electronic media is approximately at the same level as it was in 1998, however, the incomes generated from advertisement in print media in this period has decreased by 10 times, making up less than 2 million Manats for the whole of the last year. Large banks and mobile companies dominate in the advertising market. The role of the small and medium-size business is insignificant in the development of the advertising market. Opposition periodicals that have larger circulations practically do not have any advertising. As their management holds, this situation is the result of the high level of corruption and the monopolization in the country as well as the ideological influence the authorities have on the advertising market.  

Thus, under these circumstances the survival of the print media without the attraction of resources from outside becomes practically impossible. Independent experts and the executives of some media outlets offer to change these conditions by means of reforms, while the government offers a governmental support in the form of a donation. Things do not come to reforms. Instead, in 2009 the Fund for Government Assistance for Media Development was established under the President of the Azerbaijan Republic. Annually, the Fund allocates an amount from 5 to 100 thousand Manats to 30 – 40 periodicals and journalistic organizations. It also organizes competitions for the best journalistic articles and holds various events. The sum of the assistance in 2009 was 1.3 million Manats, and about 3.4 million Manats has already been allocated into the budget of the Fund for these purposes for the year 2012.  Besides, in 2010 the President granted 5 million extra Manats to the Fund for the construction of a dwelling house for journalists.


30 January, 2014
Right after the New Year, the citizens of Armenia were shocked by the gas and electricity bills for December.

Featured Interviews

Joint Internet press conferences with leading experts from different countries on the topical issues of the modern times are organized within the framework of the project, entitled "Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ‘the other side’ by Armenians and Azerbaijani through Alternative and First-Hand Information". ... >>


Cooperation between the EU and EaP States 10 Years Later: What Lies Ahead?
The “enemy’s image” in Armenian and Azerbaijani societies
Russia and the South Caucasus: Agendas, Priorities and Realities-2019


Work by AGNIAN

All rights reserved. © 2018 Public Dialogues