Nightly at 10
Azerbaijan News Service - ANS
Sevil Nuriyev works
as a journalist and producer for ANS (Azerbaijan News Service),
a channel that claims to have 90 percent of the viewing audience
of Baku. She was just named "Best Journalist of the Year"
(1998). Sevil graduated from Baku State University in 1994 with
a degree in broadcast journalism.
She has worked for several different television stations in Azerbaijan,
including AzTV. Her first program, shown on AzTV, was called
"Dissident". After this program, the AzTV leadership
invited her to work for them. At the time, Sevil was only 18
In 1993, a fire broke out in Baku's Supreme Soviet building.
Always anxious to track down a good story, Sevil Nuriyeva was
one of the first reporters on the scene. Soon reporters from
other television stations began to arrive. Intent on being the
first to get the story, Sevil dashed into the building, held
up her microphone and began to speak.
Sevil remembers, "One of the firemen kept saying, 'Miss
Sevil, stand back, please, stand back.' But I was so involved
in my news coverage that I didn't pay attention to him. So he
came up to me, picked me up and carried me to the other side
of the pavement. The funniest thing was that the cameraman was
filming the entire thing, including the last scene with the fireman."
Sevil is famous for this no-holds-barred style of journalism.
With her dynamic opinion and interview programs, she regularly
stirs up controversial ideas in order to help find solutions
to Azerbaijan's problems. In her own way, she is contributing
a newer, more outspoken quality to Azerbaijani television.
Day in the Life
Sevil's day at the studio starts at 11 a.m. She begins by catching
up on the latest news, which means reading English newspapers
like the Washington Post and watching television channels such
as BBC (British), NTV (Russian), CNN (American) and the Turkish
By 2 p.m., she has picked the subject for that night's "Viewpoint"
(Nazar Nogtasi) program. "For me, 'Viewpoint' is a stage
where I can express my own opinions and attitudes," says
Sevil. "I feel comfortable on this stage. All of the events
going on in Azerbaijan are close to me, and I always try to be
at the center of each of them."
Since she wants each night's topic to be timely, she doesn't
choose it any further in advance. She contacts the guests for
the program and asks them to appear with her that night. To make
sure her facts are correct, Sevil consults with various experts
on the specific topic. She also does research at the library
to review relevant articles or sources.
The program's topic is usually related to current events in Azerbaijan.
On occasion, Sevil covers major world events, such as the bombing
of Iraq or Madeleine Albright's meeting with the Russian Minister
of Foreign Affairs. The subject matter has to fill 20 minutes
each evening. Saturday's program extends to 30 minutes.
Unlike a reporter at a major international network, Sevil doesn't
just read the news on television. She has to research and prepare
the material herself. She doesn't have a team to do it for her.
Sevil wouldn't have it any other way, saying, "Professional
journalists are those who create their own programs."
Sevil is also the producer for "Mirror" (Guzgu), which
is broadcast every Saturday for 45 minutes through Internews.
The program is meant to reflect the political and economic processes
going on throughout the Caucasus. As with "Viewpoint",
Sevil chooses the subjects for "Mirror" herself.
is known for staging impassioned debates. By choosing controversial
topics and inviting opposing sides to present their arguments,
she provides Azerbaijan with an unprecedented forum
for competing ideas.
Some debates are more volatile than others. In 1995 while working
at AzTV, Sevil managed to bring together two celebrities, Flora
Kerimova and Ilhama Guliyeva, known to be long-time enemies.
Sevil calls it "the most scandalous program ever broadcast
in AzTV." Heated arguments that usually happened behind
curtains were exposed to a television audience.
Some public figures refuse to be interviewed on her program.
Giving an example, Sevil says, "Once I invited Abit Sharifov
to a program devoted to the subject of oil. When he came, I changed
the subject without warning him. I admit that the method I used
was not the best one, but I don't regret it. There's no other
technique I could have used. I'm sure he'll never agree to be
interviewed by me again."
Sevil's unconventional methods fit well with those of her station.
As the only independent television company in Azerbaijan, ANS
is known for this kind of "edgy" broadcasting. The
station got its start in 1991 and received its own channel in
1994. It is very popular among Azerbaijanis, perhaps because
it sticks to a middle ground. In fact, President Aliyev recently
praised it for its unbiased coverage. The station doesn't side
with either the current government or the opposition party, but
gives a chance for numerous opinions to be expressed. Sevil notes
the trend for this third type of journalism, as she calls it.
Slave to the Facts
biggest complaint about journalism in Azerbaijan today is that
it is too partisan. One set of journalists serves the government,
and another set serves the opposition. Sevil, on the other hand,
tries to be fair to both sides.
"A professional journalist must be a slave to the facts,"
Sevil says. She can't stand journalists who praise a leader while
he's in power but then insult him the minute he's out. In her
mind, this kind of tactic is highly unprofessional.
Thanks to her news programs, Sevil is now somewhat of a celebrity
in Azerbaijan. She says she feels a bit ambiguous about being
recognized by people on the street. The down side is that if
she wants to conduct a secret investigation, she has to get someone
to do it for her. On the other hand, she likes being recognized
by people because it gives her more personal contact with her
on how her upbringing has affected her career, Sevil says, "I
was brought up to be a very independent person, in spite of the
fact that I was born into a family that was part of Soviet society.
My family has a lot of respect for free thinkers. If I don't
like something, or if I have an argument about something, then
I say what I think-I'm not afraid. It doesn't even matter if
the President or the ex-president is sitting there.
"I remember when I was in third grade, my older sister was
getting married. My father asked my opinion about it. For an
Azerbaijani parent, it was very unusual to consult anyone else
about a daughter's marriage, much less a 10-year-old. I thought
about his question for 10 minutes, then I asked my father to
give me some more time to think about it. This is the kind of
atmosphere I was brought up in.
"I hope the day will come when he have an army of free-thinking
journalists," she says. "Journalism is generally regarded
as the mirror of society. As Hazrat Ali [the first Shiite Imam]
once said, 'May those walking in front, stop and wait for us
and may those walking behind, catch up.' I'm hoping that the
same thing happens in journalism."
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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AI 7.2 (Summer 99)
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