On the World Press Freedom Day, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety honors the role of a free and independent media in the development and sustainability of a vibrant democracy, and in realizing the public’s right to a diversity of information and viewpoints. IRFS pays special tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives, freedom or personal well-being for speaking truth to power.
Journalists and critical voices are imprisoned and silenced every day in Azerbaijan for saying or writing things that did not please those in power.
Facing threats and intimidation, courageous journalists, bloggers and right defenders battle efforts by government to control the flow of information.
‘The seven journalists are behind bars as the ruling regime wields draconian laws restricting access to information and creating a climate of fear to silence critical voices’, comments IRFS CEO & Chair Emin Huseynov.
‘International organizations must publicly challenge Aliyev’s regime to conform to basic standards of free speech. Closed-door meetings or seeking ‘guarantees’ is not enough when the beatings, blackmail attacks and arrests show no sign of abating’, says Huseynov.
IRFS reminds that freedom of speech is one of the essential pillars of a genuine democracy, it requires extraordinary protection. The right to freedom of expression and information is guaranteed and protected by the provisions of international instruments, and treaties signed and ratified by the Government of Azerbaijan, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 19, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 19, and the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10.
The Azerbaijan’s constitution protects human rights and fundamental freedoms, including inter alia the right to freedom of thought and expression (Article 47), the right to freedom of assembly (Article 49), the right to access information (Article 50), and the right to freedom of association (Article 58).
IRFS calls on the government to respect its obligations before the international organizations and most importantly, the people of Azerbaijan, and take the following immediate steps to address deteriorating situation in the media sector ahead of World Press Freedom Day:
- Put a stop to violence and other forms of pressure against the journalists; conduct a thorough investigation into the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice
- Immediately release the currently detained and imprisoned journalists behind bars in connection with exercising their right to freedom of expression.
- Drop the charges against journalists who face jail time in connection with exercising their right to freedom of expression.
- Review and amend national legal framework to ensure it complies with international standards for press freedom.
IRFS is appealing to the UN, the Council of Europe and OSCE to make calls to Azerbaijan, as a member state which has obligations regarding freedom of expression, and to take appropriate measures if these calls produce no effect.
For more information for the state of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, check out IRFS’s 2012 Annual and 2013 First Quarterly Freedom of Expression reports.