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Joint appeal to UNESCO director-general over Fatullayev case

(IRFS/IFEX) - 29 April 2011 - Freedom of expression organisations are deeply concerned by the continued imprisonment of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in Azerbaijan.

We are approaching the 3rd of May - World Press Freedom Day, and it is for this reason that we are writing to you. We are aware that UNESCO, as a specialized branch of the UN, is particularly focused on marking World Press Freedom Day. UNESCO aims to protect freedom of speech and expression across the world. As a clear example, we can refer to the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Prize. This year, this prize was awarded to journalists from Iran and the presentation ceremony of the prize will be held on May 3. We believe that UNESCO should call for the release of all imprisoned journalists worldwide and for an end to the pressure they are facing.

We are appealing on behalf of Eynulla Fatullayev, the imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist and internationally recognized prisoner of conscience, who has been held in prison for over 4 years in Azerbaijan.

Fatullayev has been behind bars since April 2007. In April 2010 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized his innocence and called for his immediate release. The Council of Europe Cabinet of Ministers discussed the implementation of the ECHR judgment and the release of Fatullayev, and adopted concrete decisions in its November 2010 and March 2011 sessions. Drug possession charges were filed against Fatullayev in December 2009, with the intent to prevent the implementation of the anticipated ECHR decision, and his sentence was subsequently extended. There are concerns that the journalist's life is in danger.

We regret to note that not only the journalist, but also his family members have faced death threats, pressures and provocation.

We call upon UNESCO to put forward an initiative for the release of Fatullayev and other imprisoned journalists, and call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to release him.

Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Committee to Protect Journalists
Freedom House
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute
Reporters Without Borders
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Non-IFEX Signatories:

Human Rights House Foundation
Media Legal Defence Initiative
Media Diversity Institute
Media Rights Institute
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
PEN International

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