Azerbaijan has improved on e-government and administrative burden, but the overall control of corruption and its human rights record remain poor. A culture of impunity reigns, with some individuals above the law and no corruption disclosure can take place when the press freedom is the lowest in the world. Furthermore, evidence exists that the ruling regime has used its natural resources of strategic importance to polish its image abroad.
Transparency International’s chapters in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia have published together the report entitled “Handbook on the Freedom of Information in the South Caucasus Countries”. The study was produced as part of the regional research project “Freedom of Information in the South Caucasus”, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
The report found that, although all three countries have overall made significant progress toward formally guaranteeing freedom of information to its citizens, some gaps in the implementation of FOI legislation remain. With regards to the oversight mechanisms, for instance, the study points out that only Azerbaijan has established an independent body to monitor compliance to the respective laws, but its effectiveness is questioned.
The study also reports results of a survey that examined the degree of awareness and knowledge among the population about their fundamental right to know. The majority of Azerbaijanis and Georgians declared that they would not exercise their right of freedom to information in order to access public information related to the officials’ salary, public procurement, party financing, defense, education and not even private ownership, whereas in Armenia willingness to actively make use of access to information rights was higher, reaching 71%.
The making of the report included additionally a test of different public agencies in performing their duty to provide requested information under the relevant laws. The handbook also provides a detailed compilation of international and national standards relevant for South Caucasus region on freedom of information, thus offering a primary source for research to anyone interested in the right to access to information in the region.