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IFEX members sign on to IPI campaign to release journalist

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a joint action signed by IFEX members
supporting an IPI campaign to release a journalist in Azerbaijan:

**Updates IFEX alert of 20 April 1999**

Join the International Campaign to free journalist Fuad Qahramanli - Trade
Union of Journalists (TUJo)/Azerbaijan in partnership with International
Press Institute (IPI)

The Trade Union of Journalists (TUJo), Azerbaijan, and IPI, the global
network of editors and media executives, have launched a campaign for the
release of journalist Fuad Qahramanli from prison and call on all those
dedicated to the defence and promotion of press freedom to join this
campaign of pressure on the Government of President Heydar Aliyev.

Please raise your voice to free a young journalist from jail. Fuad
Qahramanli is the only journalist in prison in the former Soviet country of
Azerbaijan. He is serving an 18-month prison sentence for an alleged "call
to social disorder" in an article which was never published. The TUJo in
conjunction with the IPI is calling for Qahramanli's release before 3 May,
World Press Freedom Day.

Who is Fuad Qahramanli?

Qahramanli Fuad Ali Oglu, was born on 21 January 1975. He graduated from the
Baku Institute of Social Management and Politology in 1997. At different
stages, he has worked for the "Azadliq", "Yeni Musavat", "Hurriyet" and
"Chag" newspapers. He was arrested on 18 June 1998, for an article which was
never published and which the authorities allege was a "call to social

The circumstances of his arrest

On the night of 16/17 June 1998, policemen from the Ministry of Internal
Affairs came to the office of "Chag" Newspaper following a tip-off from an
unknown source who claimed there were guns hidden in the office. The police
did not find any arms in the office but came across something they
considered equally dangerous; a print-out of a draft article under the
headline "Meeting Tactics of Opposition". They also found what they called a
"terrible" article on the computer hard drive. In this article the author
described how the opposition parties spread their propaganda to weaken the
government forces before the presidential elections. The police took the
paper's editor-in-chief, first deputy editor and the typist to the police
station where they were held until the following morning. The police
demanded to know who had written the offending article. The next day Fuad
Qahramanli went to the police station and declared that he had written the
article in question. He was immediately imprisoned. He contracted hepatitis
in prison.

When was he sentenced?

On 27 November 1998, the Baku City Court sentenced him to a term of
imprisonment of one and a half years pursuant to article 63-1 of the
Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic ("call to social disorder").

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the President:
  • calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Fuad Qahramanli.
    President Aliyev signed a decree in August 1998 officially abolishing
    censorship in Azerbaijan, a move which was warmly welcomed by all those who
    respect the fundamental principles of freedom of expression. However the
    continuing imprisonment of Fuad Qahramanli undermines this initiative and
    blemishes Azerbaijan's reputation as a country that is making considerable
    democratic progress
  • pointing out that the article was never published and so could not
    possibly be a "call to social disorder"
  • stating that even if the article had been published in its draft format
    conviction can not be justified unless there is a clear and present danger
    of incitement to unlawful action. There is nothing to indicate that the
    publishing of Qahramanli's article would have resulted in any unlawful act
  • as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Azerbaijan
    has an obligation to respect the democratic standards enshrined in Article
    19 of the declaration which states that "everyone has the right to freedom
    of opinion and expression ... and to seek, receive and impart information
    and ideas..."

    Appeals To

    His Excellency President Heydar Aliyev
    Office of the President
    Ulitsa Levmontova 63
    Baku, Azerbaijan
    Fax: + 994 12 92 06 25
    e-mail: [email protected]

    The campaign begins 20 April calling for Qahramanli's release on or before 3
    May, 1999 (World Press Freedom Day). Please send appeals from 20 April.
    Acknowledgement of campaign support would be appreciated.

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.


    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
    Freedom House
    Greek Helsinki Monitor
    Hong Kong Journalists' Association
    Human Rights Watch
    World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

    International Press Institute
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