Azerbaijan’s citizen journalists let alternative voices be heard

Equipped with smartphones and trained in basic journalism skills, youths in Azerbaijan become citizen journalists, letting alternative voices be heard

By Idrak Abbasov, freelance journalist, Baku

“I could not imagine a modern world without multimedia. I want to be part of society and to share the world as I see it in a professional way”, said young Anvar Jafarov as he finished a three-day training on multimedia storytelling in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.

Organised by the IMS-supported Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) the training on multimedia and radio journalism is part of an effort to boost citizen journalism and youth media in Azerbaijan.

Over three days, 14 ambitious youngsters explored multimedia storytelling methods, and received training on the basics of journalism, audio blogging, and podcasting techniques.

Alternative voices and new sources of information

With Azerbaijan’s traditional media facing an increasing amount of harassment and a highly restrictive legal environment, civil journalism and new online media platforms are a way for youths to express themselves, while also providing an alternative source of information for those citizens of Azerbaijan who have online access:

“Having lots of blogs means having lots of alternative sources of information on the internet. This course is very important from this perspective”, underlined trainer Ilgar Mirza.

To compete with the traditional mainstream media, however, there is still some way to go. But citizen journalism training is a step in the right direction, said Hajar Abbasli, member of the Azerbaijani civil society organisation “The Future” Public Association:

“We need more trainings of this kind. Three days is not enough to compete with the mainstream media.”

The training also goes a long way to complement the lack of modern journalism techniques taught at Baku State University as a young newly turned citizen journalist noted:

“For an ambitious student who wants to do professional journalism, the university curriculum is not enough. This training has been a great opportunity to improve my journalistic skills but it must not stop here”, said Zahra Amiraslani

Organised by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, the training in Baku took place from 16-18 July as part of a youth media initiative supported by International Media Support and IREX.