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Journalists who said Islam was hampering economic and political progress were given lengthy prison sentences in Azerbaijan last week, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Reporter Rafiq Tagi and editor Samir Sadagatoglu of the independent newspaper "Senet" were convicted of inciting religious hatred and sentenced on 4 May to three and four years in prison respectively, for an article published last November which said that Islam's influence was hindering Azerbaijan's economic and political development, says CPJ.

Tagi and Sadagatoglu also received death threats from Islamic radicals in Azerbaijan and Iran, who issued a fatwa demanding the journalists be executed, says CPJ. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), 40 local religious activists responded by attending the trial's court session on 26 April, openly threatening the defendants and harassing journalists covering the trial - without being called to order by the judge.

CPJ named Azerbaijan one of the top 10 countries where press freedom has deteriorated over the past five years. Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliev, also made RSF's 2007 list of "press freedom predators".

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- RSF:
- CPJ "Backsliders":
- RSF "The Predators of Press Freedom":
(8 May 2007)

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