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IRFS releases 2009 annual report

(IRFS/IFEX) - Problems related to Azerbaijan's press and independent mass media remained unsolved during 2009. There were journalists who passed away, physical and psychological attacks on journalists, and journalist arrests in 2009.

The executors and people behind the murder of "Monitor" journal editor-in-chief Elmar
Huseynov have not been found to this day. Huseynov was murdered in 2005. The
indifference of Azerbaijan's administration to countless calls from civil society to erect a monument in honor of Huseynov reveals the negative attitude of the government towards him. As a result, there's no improvement in the investigation being conducted into the journalist's murder. The Republic of Azerbaijan National Security Ministry has been giving standard answers in connection with the investigation into Huseynov's death. A representative from the NSM recently stated "The search for Georgian citizens who are suspected in the killing of Elmar Huseynov continues."

Despite calls from local and international organizations, the government did not realize the decriminalization of defamation. As a consequence, journalists were convicted under articles 147 (libel) and 148 (insult), which lead to the imprisonment of journalists, and were thrown into jail.

Attacks against independent media started at the beginning of the year. The broadcasting of three foreign radio stations – Radio Liberty, VOA and BBC, via local FM frequencies, was shut down on 1 January 2009 because of the government's intolerance for freedom of speech.

At the end of the year a drug investigation was exercised against imprisoned the editor-in-chief of "Gundalik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspapers.

On 17 August, the "Tolishi Sado" (Voice of Talysh) newspaper editor-in-chief, 68-year-old Novruzali Mammadov, died in the Justice Ministry Penitentiary Services' Central Hospital due to a failure to provide him with necessary treatment by authorities. Another journalist - Mushfig Huseynov, who suffers from severe form of TB, would have faced the same fate had he not been released under a presidential pardon decree in December.

Since 2009 was the year of municipality elections, the government employed all means to undermine the role of independent mass media. Changes and amendments made to the Constitution and other legislative acts served to restrict the work of media.

Although the Azerbaijani government claims that there are 1300 newspapers in the country, about 10 opposition newspapers are published in Azerbaijan. The circulation of these newspapers does not even secure access to information for 1% of population. The TV and Radio sector remains under de facto governmental supervision.

Click below to download the entire IRFS report:
2009-Freedom-of-Speech-Annual-Report.pdf (288 KB)

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