“Using imprisonment as a crude form of censorship, the authoritarian government of President Ilham Aliyev remained one of the region’s worst jailers of journalists.
Authorities allowed one editor to die in state custody after failing to provide adequate medical care and ignoring domestic and international pleas for treatment,” reads the 2009 annual report of the Committee to Protect Journalists regarding freedom of speech.
“Political dissent and independent voices, already in short supply, came under assault again as Aliyev tightened his grip on the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation,” it is said in the report. “In March, his government brought before voters a constitutional amendment to remove presidential term limits, effectively allowing Aliyev to remain in office for life. Aliyev effectively inherited the presidency from his father, Heydar, himself leader of Azerbaijan for more than 30 years.”
The report unveils the issue of “Tolishy Sado” Newspaper Editor-in-chief, 68 year old Novruzali Mammadov, who died in prison, two years into a 10-year sentence on a trumped-up treason charge. Furthermore, the report covers the closure of the BBC and the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America, imprisoned editor-in-chief of the now-closed Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev, and Azadlig Newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid. The case of two video bloggers – Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade—who were arrested in July after posting a video online criticizing government policies, is also mentioned in the report.
Three journalists—Sakit Zakhidov of the pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, Asif Marzili of the independent weekly Tezadlar, and Ali Hasanov of the pro-government daily Ideal—were granted early release from prison in April under a pardon act passed by parliament the month before, according to the report.
“Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic—a western exclave that borders Armenia, Iran, and Turkey—remained Azerbaijan’s most dangerous assignment. Only a handful of reporters worked in the territory, and they faced intimidation and harassment from local security agents. In February 2009, Idrak Abbasov, a reporter with the Baku-based independent newspaper Zerkalo and a researcher with IRFS, traveled to Nakhchivan to study local press freedom conditions where he faced pressure,” the report reads.