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On fifth anniversary of editor's murder, ARTICLE 19 calls for redoubling of efforts to bring perpetrators to justice

(ARTILCE 19 /IFEX) - 2 March 2010 - Today marks the fifth anniversary of the unsolved murder of Monitor editor-in-chief Elmar Huseynov, who was fatally gunned down in his apartment building in a well-organised attack. ARTICLE 19 calls on the Azerbaijani government to redouble its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to take immediate action to improve freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

Elmar's murder had a distinctly chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country. Today, journalists in Azerbaijan face harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for conducting their professional activities. Journalists are imprisoned on politically motivated charges of defamation, inciting hatred, supporting terrorism, hooliganism, and drug possession, yet those who commit physical attacks against journalists remain unpunished.

Opposition and independent media outlets operate on an uneven playing field, with unequal access to printing and broadcast facilities, pressure on investors not to advertise in their publications, and excessive civil defamation lawsuits filed by public officials. Self-censorship is pervasive, with few remaining journalists willing to accept the financial and security risks associated with pursuing investigative journalism.

These trends are alarming, and seriously call into question the Azerbaijani government's commitment to freedom of expression and human rights.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Azerbaijani government to:

- Step up its efforts to find and prosecute those responsible for Elmar's murder, regularly informing Elmar's family of progress and providing periodic updates to the local press and the international community
- Take seriously journalists' reports of threats against them and provide them with adequate police protection
- Promptly and thoroughly investigate all attacks against journalists and prosecute the attackers
- Cease all forms of harassment and intimidation of the opposition and independent media
- Abolish all practices that create unequal opportunities for opposition and independent media
- Eliminate legal provisions that stifle the exercise of freedom of expression, including criminal defamation laws
- Take immediate, concrete measures to establish an environment conducive to freedom of expression
- Comply with its international commitments to uphold freedom of expression, such as those outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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