Human Rights Watch released its latest report on the violations of press freedom and the prosecution of journalists in Azerbaijan.
The report has found that the Azerbaijani authorities, including senior officials, regularly bring criminal and civil defamation charges against journalists and human rights defenders who criticize the government. The police prevent mass media involvement in important public affairs.
In a statement in today’s press conference in Baku, Human Rights Watch Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia Rachel Denber said:
“Journalist Eynulla Fatullayev and bloggers Adnan Hajizadeh and Emin Milli must be released. This is our first and main recommendation for the Azerbaijani government.”
“Every person trying to openly criticize the government faces the risk of becoming a target for violence, threat and prosecution. Recent legislative and administrative changes inflicted an adverse effect on freedom of expression. The constitutional amendments approved in 2009 March referendum includes a clause which bans the journalist to take photo or video of a person without his/her permission. Moreover, the broadcasting of foreign radio stations in local FM frequencies was banned in early 2009. Consequently, BBC, Voice of America and Radio Liberty were prevented from broadcasting.”
The head of Human Rights Watch Caucasus Office, Giorgi Gorgia, said that Azerbaijan has an international obligation to ensure that its citizens have freedom of expression. “If the government thinks that strangling press freedom and intimidating journalists will allow for a quiet life, it is wrong. As the country with the most arrests for anti-government journalism, Azerbaijan is always in the spotlight.”