‘Do Not Allow the Destruction of the Last Bastion of Free Speech in Azerbaijan’

azadliq qazeti

Opposition Daily Azadlig Appeals to Local and International Community  

Opposition newspaper Azadliq, which was forced to cease publication three months ago, has appealed to the local and international community.

On 6 September 2016, the Azerbaijan Publishing House declared it would no longer print Azadliq due to the newspaper’s outstanding debt to the publisher. The publisher set a deadline of 5 September for Azadliq to pay off a significant portion of its debt. However, the newspaper failed to make the necessary payments within the specified time, and so publication was halted.

“Azadliq newspaper will mark its 27th anniversary on 24 December. For 27 years, Azadliq has brought the truth to families, forewarned citizens of threats, and operated without betraying its principles. However, those contributing to the birth of corruption, fraud and injustice in the country are preventing Azadliq from celebrating its 27th birthday. They have forced Azadliq to pay fines as a result of politically-motivated court verdicts, deprived the newspaper of its revenue sources, and framed and imprisoned the newspaper’s employees. The animosity did not end there. They could not stand the fact that the newspaper was surviving against all odds. First, they arrested the newspaper’s financial director on ridiculous charges. Then, they created artificial legal obstacles to the newspaper’s operation. For the past three months, Azadliq newspaper has been deadlocked, and is facing legal barriers to publication. Azadliq newspaper is a political prisoner framed and arrested by the current government. They have handcuffed the 27-year-old newspaper. Of course, the newspaper’s digital version is up and running, and they have failed to silence us completely. That said, the print version of the newspaper is of great importance. It is necessary to continue printing Azadliq newspaper in order to save society from the lack of information, and the disinformation,” reads the newspaper’s appeal.

Azadliq staff call upon the national and international community to take action to prevent ‘the last bastion of free speech [from being] destroyed’.

“Azadliq newspaper employees have not received salaries for months, and are working under pressure. The Gasid firm is refusing to pay the 70,000-manat it owes the newspaper, which has led to Azadliq’s huge debt to the publishing company. Our insistence on the publication of the newspaper is not motivated by personal interests. It does not serve to increase our income or help us make money. It is for the sake of our national interests that we want the newspaper to be printed. We are against the policy of depriving citizens of access to free speech [and information] that sheds light on many important things. There is practically no other independent newspaper in Azerbaijan apart from Azadliq. This is an important fact and it is unfair to ignore this. In the past 27 years, Azadliq has walked its path with honour. It is unjust to close down a newspaper which has served the people for so long, or to remain indifferent to its closure. We call upon international human rights organisations and other international bodies to save our voice from being silenced. We further request the local community to stand against the loss of Azadliq, which is the newspaper of us all. Azadliq is a newspaper produced by one editorial staff, but benefiting the whole society”, the statement reads.

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