June 24th, 2008

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) positively assesses the statement of Presidential Administration Socio-Political Department Head Ali Hasanov that the imprisonment of journalists is something that damages Azerbaijan’s international image.

However, IRFS is concerned about Ali Hasanov only referred to three of Azerbaijan’s four wrongfully imprisoned journalists.

On 20 June 2008, during an interview to journalists, Hasanov said, “The imprisonment of three journalists has had negative effects on the international image of Azerbaijan. All the international organizations present this as the problem of speech and press freedom. We hope that these kinds of cases won’t be repeated. We should wish that the doors of those imprisoned be opened.”

IRFS believes that along with “Azadlig” newspaper satiric/journalist Sakit Zahidov (Sakit Zahid), the editor-in-chief of “Gundalik Azerbaijan” and “Realniy Azerbaijan” newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev and “Azadlig” newspaper editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid, who are referred to by Hasanov, Bizim Yol” newspaper correspondent Mushfig Huseynov is also a wrongfully imprisoned journalist that was arrested on political grounds. IRFS conducted an independent investigation into Mushfig Huseynov’s case, and as a result of that it was revealed that Huseynov was imprisoned after being entrapped by a government official. Although Huseynov was convicted of demanding a bribe, there is absolutely not one single shred of evidence in the widely publicized video-recording of the journalist’s arrest or elsewhere that committed such an act. In fact it can be clearly seen in the video-recording that the government official offers Huseynov money repeatedly and uses all means to make him accept the money.

IRFS notes that along with the other three journalists, Mushfig Huseynov is also recognized by both local and international organizations as a journalist imprisoned on political orders, and he should therefore also be immediately released. Several local and international organizations (IRFS, Media Rights Institute, Peace and Democracy Institute, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and so on) have denounced Mushfig Huseynov’s conviction and the sentencing of him to six years of imprisonment (this was later reduced to 5 years by the Appellate Court) and have made calls for his release.

IRFS appeals to Azerbaijan’s government to immediately release all four of Azerbaijan’s wrongfully imprisoned journalists. IRFS also calls on the international community to increase their efforts to influence the Azerbaijani government to release all of the four wrongfully imprisoned journalists.