President Ilham Aliyev, the ruling leader of Azerbaijan, has this week committed an additional 3 million Azerbaijani Manat (aprox 3.2 mil Euros) to the construction of a building that will house pro-government media workers.
The building has been criticised by many as an obvious tool to support the current regime and was described by one online commenter as an ‘ivory tower’ and by another as a ‘propaganda palace’.
The building, which will be the second of its kind, will house pro-government journalists as well as provide office spaces for regime-sanctioned publications. The total cost of the building is estimated at around 38 million Euros.
Azerbaijani authorities do not disclose details on their budgetary spending, leaving many to speculate as to where the additional 3 million manat originated from. Some claim that the money has come from the national public budget, normally reserved for spending on things such as hospitals, schools and roads.
President Aliyev’s rule in 2014 was defined by a crackdown on journalists, lawyers and activists that was internationally condemned as an attempt to stifle anti-government voices. Growing concerns over Azerbaijan’s free press have led to many groups attempting to force international governments into taking action against Aliyev’s regime.
Azerbaijan, however, is one of Europe’s largest oil suppliers and continues to benefit from positive trade relations with Western Europe, despite the nation’s lack of political or journalistic freedom.