The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is concerned about the number of court-issued fines that have been accorded to Khrual newspaper, after a series of lawsuits. IRFS believes that these measures could put the paper in financial jeopardy, and threaten the future of its opertaion.
After the newspaper’s failure to pay fine imposed after a lawsuit brought by Azerbaijan Printing House four years ago, Narimanov District Court sent a warning to editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli. Then on February 3rd, after a 6-minute deliberation, the Court issued the newspaper with a 3,000 AZN fine relating to the lawsuit filed by singer Nushaba Alasgarli. The newspaper had filed an appeal against the Narimanov District Court decision, which had fined them 500 AZN after the lawsuit brought by the head of the Mass Media Development Support Fund. But the Appeals Court increased this fine tenfold and ruled for a 5,000 AZN fine. Moreover, Khural was fined 10,000 AZN in the lawsuit filed by President’s Office Head Ramiz Mehdiyev. The appeal filed against this decision will be heard on February 18 in Supreme Court. In addition, the consideration of MP Etibar Huseynov’s defamation lawsuit will begin on February 11.
In light of the aforementioned, IRFS believes that the series of lawsuits taken out against a newspaper with small budget is likely a political directive, the goal of which is to put shut down Khural.
IRFS calls upon the Executive Director of the Mass Media Development Support Fund, Vugar Safarli, to fulfill his professional duty in supporting the development of mass media, and putting an end to the silencing of newspapers via non-independent courts.
IRFS also calls upon the head of the Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev to withdraw his personal lawsuit against the newspaper.
Finally, IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani courts to stop its practice of levying unreasonable fines against the newspaper.