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ARTICLE 19 releases freedom of expression report

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 10 September 2010 - ARTICLE 19 launches a new report titled Living as Dissidents: Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan, from Baku today, which outlines some key findings relating to the freedom of expression climate in the country. The report also analyses trends and cases of concern from a freedom of political expression perspective.

The report concludes that the freedom of expression situation has deteriorated over the past five years and should be considered among the most pressing human rights concerns in the country. Alarming trends identified in the report includes acts of violence against journalists; inability of human right NGOs to register and thus freely conduct their work; harassment and persecution of government critics; use of criminal defamation provisions to imprison journalists; and misuse of criminal law for political purposes, including the imprisonment of government critics on charges such as coup-plotting, hooliganism, and drug possession.

"Years of intimidation and scare tactics have worked, resulting in pervasive self-censorship and an overall climate of fear," said ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Agnès Callamard at the report launch event in Baku. "Immediate implementation of concrete measures by the Azerbaijani authorities is needed to address this situation, as is greater attention and support from the international community," Callamard continued.

The report also analyses trends and cases of concern from a freedom of political expression perspective. Since the 2005 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, the authorities have demonstrated increased intolerance to any form of criticism, taking actions to limit the freedom of expression of journalists, civil society, youth and political party activists, as well as ordinary citizens. Many activists told ARTICLE 19 that they feel like they are living again as dissidents, as they did under the Soviet era.

The report contains ARTICLE 19's recommendations to the Azerbaijani authorities on how to improve the freedom of expression situation in the country. These include:
- to immediately release Ruslan Bashirli, Eynulla Fatullayev, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, and cease the imprisonment of persons for political reasons;
- to ensure that legislation pertaining to the registration and activities of NGOs is implemented in a manner which promotes a vibrant and independent civil society;
- to investigate and prosecute all cases of violence and threats of violence against journalists;
- to cease its targeting of opposition political parties and youth movements and allow them to function in a normal manner consistent with their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association;
- to cease their practices of harassment, intimidation, and persecution of those who express critical opinions; and
- to bring all legislation into compliance with international standards, including through decriminalising defamation.

Click on the following link to download the report:
living-as-dissidents.pdf (431 KB)

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