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Newspapers fined for "damaging honour" of businessman

UPDATE: Supreme Court denies appeal filed by Yeni Musavat and Azadliq newspapers (IRFS, 25 September 2012)

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the court-issued fines against the "Yeni Musavat" and "Azadliq" newspapers, and assesses the fines as part of the continuing pressure on the free press. The newspapers were each fined 2000 manats (approx. US$2,545) by the decision of the Yasamal District Court judge Elchin Gurbanov on 23 January 2012.

The decision was the conclusion of a lawsuit brought by businessman Anar Mammadov, who accused the two newspapers of damaging his honor and business image. Mammadov, the son of Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov, appealed to the court citing articles titled "Kamaladdin Heydarov's Bear Eaten" (published in "Azadliq" on 1 July, 2010 and in "Yeni Musavat" on 2 July, 2010), and "Sheikh drives Anar Mammadov out of Dubai" (published in "Yeni Musavat" on 14 September, 2010).

Mammadov demanded 250,000 AZN (approx. US$318,180) from each newspaper in compensation. During the hearing, the "Yeni Musavat" representative, Vagif Huseyn, told the judge that it is illegal to consider the case without a decision being made on the preliminary hearing and called the proceeding biased and politically motivated.

The judge fined Husyen 50 AZN (approx. US$63) for speaking out of turn, prompting Huseyn to leave the court room in protest. After deliberation the judge fined each newspaper 2000 AZN and required that each publish a refutation. IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities and businessmen to stop putting pressure on the free press. IRFS believes that the continued use of the courts to pressure the media causes serious damage to Azerbaijan's image and calls for this kind of pressure to stop.

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