While mass media in Azerbaijan are technically developed, they face serious problems with content. The absence of independent media directly paralyses the communication flow between media and society. The audience cannot get all the information it needs, as media channels are mainly provided by the state. Even cable television is under full control. Besides satellite antennas, there are no alternative media. Hence the Azerbaijani opinion makers find a tool of self-expression mainly on social media, where they list the problems they see and try to analyse the real situation. Social media allows communication with the audience, collaboration, community creation and feedback. It allows to share information that is not available in the newspapers and Internet resources, including all television channels, and creates resonance in the community.
Following are the profiles of some of the most prominent opinion makers of Azerbaijan:
- Avaz Hasanov is a co-founder and head of the think-tank called Humanitarian Research Public Union (2000) and of the Baku Institute for Conflict Management (2011), working on the issues of conflict transformation, migration and human rights. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on human rights and peacebuilding processes in Azerbaijan and an internationally qualified conflict expert. The most influential experts and politicians in Azerbaijan meet with him and take his views on conflicts. Hasanov has been long engaged in dealing with captives, hostages and missing people. He is the author of numerous speeches in front of local and foreign audiences on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He is an author of numerous publications, books and documentaries about Nagorno Karabakh conflict. He is active on Facebook and Twitter, with a combined following of almost 3,000 users.
- Alasgar Mammadli is a lawyer who has been working in the field of media and development in Azerbaijan for 12 years. He is one of the few experts specialised in media rights in Azerbaijan and is the author of dozens of books, brochures covering media rights, electoral rights, local self-government, access to information, constitutional law, human rights and freedoms. He has published numerous scientific articles in local and foreign publications and is the presenter of hundreds of trainings for lawyers and journalists. He is active on his personal blog, on Twitter and on Facebook, where he has 2,400 followers.
- Khadija Ismayilova is an Azerbaijani investigative journalist. She is a member of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. In December 2014, Ismayilova was arrested on charges of incitement to suicide, a charge widely criticised as bogus by human rights organisations. On 1 September, 2015, Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison under charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. On 25 May, 2016, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court ordered Ismayilova released on probation. In December 2017, Ismayilova received the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as "Alternative Nobel Prize", Stockholm, Sweden, "for her courage and tenacity in exposing corruption at the highest levels of government through outstanding investigative journalism in the name of transparency and accountability." Khadija was not allowed to travel from Azerbaijan to Sweden to receive the award. Ismayilova was the head of the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from 2008 to 2010, after which she continued working there as a regular staff reporter. Beginning in 2010, a series of her articles dealing with state-level corruption in Azerbaijan caused great controversy as they explicitly named Azerbaijan's current President’s family as engaging in corruption. The government never issued a comment with regard to any of these reports. She is very popular on Facebook with 30,000 likes and on Twitter with 18,400 followers.
- Ilham Shaban is the Head of the Caspian Barrel Oil Research Center, a non-governmental body collecting information on the Caspian oil and gas, as well as the countries of the Caspian basin. He is the only oil and gas expert in oil-rich Azerbaijan and has 4,400 followers on Facebook.
- Natig Jafarli, executive secretary of the Republican Alternative Party (ReAl) and economist, makes forecasts and proposals on the economy of Azerbaijan, international economic relations, banking system and efficient use of budget funds. He supports the idea of developing the country's economy on the basis of a free/competitive market relationship and a model dominated by private property. He advocates for transparent tax policies, decrease in budget expenditures, support for small- and medium-sized businesses, and the creation of a cheap credit market. He has 27,000 followers on Facebook.