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Report from Azerbaijani group urges government to prosecute those behind press violence

Azerbaijani police crack down on peaceful protest in the capital Baku.
Azerbaijani police crack down on peaceful protest in the capital Baku.

Mehman Huseynov, IRFS

(IRFS/IFEX) - On 8 August 2012, the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety launched its semi-annual report on the state of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

The report documents findings and outlines freedom of expression violations for the first half of 2012, providing insights into how the government continues to punish and prosecute individuals for expressing their opinions and protesting ongoing repression.

The report was made possible with support from International Media Support (IMS) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It was prepared on the basis of investigations, interviews, monitoring of court proceedings, desk study and media monitoring, analysis of submitted inquiries and complaints and IRFS safety hotline statistics.

IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov presented the key findings and recommendations. "We call for the authorities to bring the murderers of Elmar Huseynov and Rafig Tagi to justice and to seriously investigate and prosecute all cases of violence against journalists," he noted.

The report presents a significant list of recommendations to the government. The top recommendation is to immediately end impunity for violence against journalists. IRFS urges the government to detain and prosecute the masterminds who ordered a blackmail attack on outspoken female journalist Khadija Ismaylova in March 2012.

"We are requesting that international organisations pay more attention to the problems related to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and ensure that Azerbaijan fulfills its obligations undertaken before the international community," said the IRFS chairman.

The authors of the report advise their journalist colleagues to follow professional and ethical codes, and to be more attentive with respect to personal security. "Journalists should not remain silent when it comes to their problems," said Huseynov. He encouraged journalists to call the IRFS safety hotline should any problem arise. "The government has zero tolerance for criticism, and that's the main reason for the prosecution and intimation of critical voices," Huseynov noted.

According to the report, eight journalists are in prison based on various charges widely agreed by both local and international bodies to be trumped-up. They are: two Khural newspaper correspondents, Avaz Zeynalli and Aydin Janiyev; two Khayal TV correspondents, Zaur Guliyev and Vugar Gonagov; Iranian Sahar TV correspondent Anar Bayramli; islamazeri.com website chief editor Ramin Bayramov; and azadxeber.az website chief editor Nijat Aliyev. The last two journalists were arrested on drug charges. The list of imprisoned journalists and media representatives also includes the name of Tolishi-Sado newspaper chief editor Hilal Mammadov, who was charged with drug possession and treason.

According to Huseynov, the next report will be released on the eve of the Internet Governance Forum, to raise international awareness of the freedom of expression situation in Azerbaijan.

Download the report:
IRFS_Freedom_of_Expression_Report.PDF (2967 KB)

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