A DRL grant to Internews in Azerbaijan seeks to promote public discourse around the topic of Islam and democracy. The program strengthens local media through workshops and hands-on reporting to produce high quality television programs, radio shows, and newspaper inserts. Participating journalists capitalized on their skills and the solid reputation they have earned over the life of the program after an August 2008 grenade attack at Baku’s Abu Bakir Mosque. Immediately after the bombing, the Mosque’s leaders unsuccessfully sought to dispute their depiction in the media, leading to the discontinuation of press contact. However, journalists participating in the DRL program requested and obtained an interview with members of the mosque. Additionally, they were able to film exclusive footage inside the mosque. This coverage provided the mosque with an opportunity to communicate with the public and dispel prevailing misconceptions.
The television program is now recognized within the Islamic community as a channel for defending religious communities against discrimination. One of the reporters started to receive numerous phone calls from those reporting abuse or detainment by the authorities. For example, in the wake of the Abu Bakr bombing, numerous individuals from the Salafi community were detained by police, with their beards forcibly shaved off or even burned off. When the reporter received phone calls from those tipping her to the detainment, she followed up by calling the police stations and inquiring about those reportedly held. While the police denied holding anyone, she subsequently discovered that after her call, the individuals were released, illustrating the extent to which participating journalists are gaining credibility and public trust within their community.