INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS` FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

February 10th, 2010
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the uncompromising changes and amendments proposed to media legislation by the president, and assesses this as a cruel step to suffocate freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

The Milli Mejlis (Parliament) received a proposal from the Presidential Administration regarding changes and amendments to Laws “On Mass Media”, “On Freedom of Information”, and “On Obtaining information.”

The item “Excluding operational-investigation cases, following someone, and subjecting them to video, photo or voice recording by media representatives and other persons without them knowing it or with them objecting to it is punishable as defined by law” is proposed to these laws in addition to Law “On Operational-investigation Activities” and to Law “On Intelligence and anti-intelligence.”

IRFS declares that this change proposed to Laws “On Mass Media,” “On Freedom of Information,” and “On Obtaining information” will severely restrict the work of mass media and will hurt journalists’ freedom of gathering and disseminating information.

IRFS shares the concern of other Azerbaijani NGOs condemning this change and notes that the work of journalists should not be restricted to observations. The journalists should have right to follow any person, to listen to any information using technical means, to take photos and film, and to write. Specifically, investigative journalists cannot be satisfied with information provided voluntarily.

IRFS recalls that during 18 March 2009, using “people’s will”, the administration made the change “Except in cases defined by law, nobody cannot be followed, and cannot be subjected to video or photo recording or this kind of actions without him knowing it or with him objecting to it” to article 32 of the Constitution.

IRFS believes that the real reason for these kinds of changes is the government’s attempt to conceal the prevailing corruption in the country. Furthermore, the changes proposed to Laws “On Mass Media,” “On Freedom of Information,” and “On Obtaining information” is a continuation of these efforts. This administration, which made the change to the Constitution under the name of the “protection of personal life” is demonstrating its genuine desire to take away journalists’ right to obtain and disseminate information.

IRFS declares that this proposed change is contradictory to article 47 (thought and speech freedom) and 50 (freedom of information) of the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, and article 10(freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

IRFS calls on Azerbaijan’s Milli Mejlis to object to these changes and to vote against it.

In addition, IRFS calls on Azerbaijan’s government to hold a referendum and to annul the amendment made to article 32 (Right to personal immunity) of the Constitution.