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To Fight Coronavirus, Azerbaijan Passes the Hat

Azerbaijan is supposed to be the richest country in the region. So why is it asking for donations to help it deal with the coronavirus outbreak?

Joshua Kucera/ Eurasianet

Earlier this month, Azerbaijan’s government announced that it was donating $5 million each to Iran and the World Health Organization to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev Attended Opening of Hovsan Residential Complex on 24 March, 2020 -Courtesy: Azerbaijan Presidential.Website

Now, the government itself is asking for donations from citizens, organizations, and businesses to help it deal with the disease in Azerbaijan.

President Ilham Aliyev announced the creation of the fund on March 19, and its first contributions were from the government (20 million manats, or about $12 million) and from his own personal yearly salary. Soon to follow were Aliyev’s wife and first vice president, Mehriban Aliyeva, and a host of organizations and businesses.

The State Security Service is donating 800,000 manats. Day.az and the Trend News Agency each donated 50,000 manats. Pasha Holding, the business giant controlled by Aliyeva’s family, donated 3 million Euros and 2 million manats. Every government ministry, bank, and cell phone company, has chipped in. The donations have been exhaustively covered in the Azerbaijani media; the news site Haqqin alone has carried (by Eurasianet’s count) 96 separate stories about donations to the fund.

As of March 25, the fund had collected about 80 million manats, its official site reported.

The existence of the fund has raised many questions, the most fundamental of which is: Why is Azerbaijan’s government, which has the largest state budget of any country in the Caucasus, the only one passing the hat like this?

Ibrahim Mammadov, the spokesperson for the Cabinet of Ministers, who has been designated the government’s point man on coronavirus matters, did not respond to a request for comment from Eurasianet.

It’s not clear how much money the fund will be able to collect, but the amount accumulated so far will barely make a dent in the one billion manat bailout package that Aliyev rolled out the same day that the fund was created. (Moreover, many of the businesses that have been donating to the fund would presumably be the intended beneficiaries of the bailout.)

Aliyev’s own comments suggest that the point of the fund is not so much to combat coronavirus as to inculcate a sense of national belonging.

“The basic goal of the fund’s creation is for every person to demonstrate, within the limits of their capability, their civil solidarity, to yet again demonstrate the solidarity and generosity that is one of the foundations of our society,” he said during a March 24 television interview. “For us to show ourselves and the entire world that we are a great people.”

Others believe the government may actually need the money, given the recent drop in oil prices against the background of an already struggling economy.

“The money being raised has nothing to do with the coronavirus – the price of oil is falling, and this one of the steps being taken to get out of the situation, something like a drowning man clinging to a straw,” wrote Altay Goyushev, a Berlin-based Azerbaijani analyst, on his Facebook page. “Governments all over the world are helping their people and, as usual in Azerbaijan, the people are helping the government.”

Hebib Muntezir, a journalist for the Berlin-based Azerbaijani network Meydan TV, reported that civil servants, teachers, and others “are being forced to donate their salaries to the coronavirus fund … Ilham Aliyev proudly says that other countries are learning from us. Never mind other countries – the virus itself is shocked by what he is doing.”

While the money-raising efforts have been well documented, Azerbaijan’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak itself has been less visible. The country has tended to be a step behind its neighbors: it was the last country neighboring Iran to close its border following a large outbreak in that country, and also closed schools and other institutions later than its neighbors. The first cases of the disease in both Georgia and Belarus were people who had traveled – with the disease undetected – via Azerbaijan. Cases of the disease in Russia, Israel, and Kuwait also were detected among people who had recently traveled from Azerbaijan.

In spite of all that the disease has spread – officially, at least – relatively slowly in Azerbaijan. As of March 25, there were 76 active cases of COVID-19 in Azerbaijan; one person has died of the disease and ten have recovered.

One source in Baku, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there is widespread skepticism about the official numbers. The source also noted, however, that Azerbaijan’s close-knit society and social media would make it impossible to hide deaths from the disease. “So, we would be hearing about it if there were more people dying,” the source told Eurasianet.

Azerbaijan’s government has been aggressive, at least, in taking advantage of the crisis to attack its political opposition. In a March 19 speech, Aliyev openly threatened opposition figures, calling them a “fifth column” that was taking advantage of coronavirus to sow panic. He warned that they may have to be “isolated” as a result.

It didn’t take long before the authorities acted on those warnings. One prominent opposition figure, Tofig Yagublu, was arrested days later on what Human Rights Watch called “spurious hooliganism charges,” which the organization tied to Aliyev’s coronavirus threat.

Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, reported that two other opposition figures were detained on coronavirus-related pretexts. 

This Story Was Originally Published by Eurasianet Eurasianet© 2020

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Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus: 
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes ,organizations or individual.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources  then it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on social media messages that the lockdown will last for more than 3 months. Check any related information only on Government Web Portals and social media platforms of various Government Agencies.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred 

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they are developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic information write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com

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