July 22nd, 2009
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Media Rights Institute (MRI) are concerned about the verdict to sentence three more journalists under defamation charges of the CC of Azerbaijan Republic and strongly condemn it.

Today, 22 July, during a hearing held in the Nizami District Court, Judge Ziya Aliyev issued a verdict to sentence “Nota” Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Substitute Sardar Alibeyli (Aliyev) and “Nota” Newspaper employee Faramaz Novruzoglu (Allahverdiyev) under Article 148 (insult) and 147.2 (accusing someone of grave crimes or especially grave crimes). According to the verdict, they have been sentenced to three months imprisonment. Another correspondent of the newspaper Ramiz Tagiyev has been sentenced to six months conditional imprisonment.

Due to articles “Whose orders is Tahmasib Novruzov fulfilling” (1-7 February, 2009, edition 04 (018), “Anti-Terror Center threatens our citizens” (8-14 February, edition 05 (019), “Who is NSM’s person in APA”, “Bahlul Muradova raises one more criminal case” (22-28 February, 2009, edition 07 (021), “Let your mother die, hey Ramazan” (01-07 March, edition 08 (022), and “Who are forces that want the name of Sevil Nuriyeva to be mentioned in our newspaper” (08-14 March, 2009, edition 09 (023) published in “Nota” Newspaper. On 31 March, in the Khatai District Court, Judge Togrul Aliyev adopted a decision for “Nota” Newspaper to publish a refutation about the articles and apologize. T.Novruzov filed a special lawsuit again under articles 147.2 and 148 of the Criminal Code due to the article “Apology article for Tahmasib Novruzov whose honor is stepped on and whose dignity is degraded,” which was published in the April 05-11 2009 edition of the newspaper. In June the case was sent to Nizami District Court to be considered. Today a verdict has been issued against the defendants. S.Alibeyli and F.Allahverdiyev will file an appeal against this decision. If their appeal is not fulfilled, the verdict will be fulfilled and both of the journalists will be imprisoned.   

IRFS and MRI note that this verdict is the second in a row against “Nota” Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Substitute S.Alibeyli in three days. Two days ago – on  20 July, in the Nizami District Court, during a hearing under the chairmanship of judge Vidadi Mammadov, on the special lawsuit of Internal Army Commander, General-Lieutenant Zakir Hasanov, Internal Army Deputy Commander Fakhraddin Samadov, Internal Army Financial Manager Namig Poladov and Internal Army Staff Department Head, Colonel Nasir Huseynov under article 147.2 (accusing someone in grave or especially grave crimes) of the Criminal Code against “Nota” newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Substitute Sardar Alibeyli a decision was adopted to sentence Sardar Alibeyli to seven months conditional imprisonment.  

IRFS and MRI condemn these decisions to sentence the journalists to the harshest punishment adopted under defamation charges. No matter how severe the criticism is, sentencing journalists to imprisonment for their free expression is a step to prevent them from public discussions.
IRFS and MRI hope these verdicts against the journalists will be changed.

IRFS and MRI call on Azerbaijan’s government to adopt a new law which will regulate the defamation according to the standards defined by the European Human Rights Court.