Azerbaijan’s Critical Voices in Danger: IRFS launches its semi-annual freedom of expression report

Today the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety launched a semiannual reported on the state of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

The event was held in IRFS Media Center. The report documents findings and outlines freedom of expression violations for the first half of 2012.. The report provides insight 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 National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The report has been prepared on the basis of the investigations, interviews, monitoring of court proceedings, desk study and media monitoring, analysis of submitted inquiries and complains and IRFS safety hotline statistics.

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

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

 “We are requesting that the international organizations pay more attention to the problems related to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and ensure that Azerbaijan fulfils its obligations undertaken before 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 in terms of personal security. “Journalists should not remain silent when it comes to their problems” said Huseynov.  He encouraged the journalists to call IRFS safety hotline should any problem arise. “The government has zero tolerance to criticism, and that’s the main reason for prosecution and intimation of critical voices’, Huseynov noted..

According to the report, there are eight journalists in prison under various charges widely agreed by both local and international bodies to be trumped-up. These journalists are: two correspondents of Khural newspaper Avaz Zeynalli and Aydin Janiyev, two correspondent of Khayal TV Zaur Guliyev and Vugar Gonagov, Iranian Sahar TV correspondent Anar Bayramli, website chief editor Ramin Bayramov and website chief editor Nijat Aliyev. The last two journalists were arrested on drug charges.

The list of the imprisoned journalists and media representatives also include the name of Tolishi-Sado newspaper chief editor Hilal Mammadov, who charged of 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 on freedom of expression situation in Azerbaijan.

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