IRFS APPEALS TO EUROPEAN UNION BOARD OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 15th, 2009
Today, 15 July, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety has addressed an appeal to the European Union Board of Representatives who will be visiting Azerbaijan – European Union Chairperson, Sweden Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, European Union Special Representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby, Representative of the European Union Council Secretariat Paulo Barroso Simos, European Commission representatives Karel Kovanda and John Kjaer.

It is said in the appeal:

 

Dear Representatives,

 
We are very concerned about the deteriorated situation of human rights and freedom of press, and want to ask you to carry out discussions regarding this during your meetings in Baku with Azerbaijan’s President and other officials within the framework of your visit to the South Caucasus.   

IRFS notes that “Monitor” Journal’s Editor-in-chief Elmar Huseynov, who always criticized government, was murdered on 2 March 2005 at the order of the government, and the executors and people behind his murder have not been found to this day.

The broadcasts of three radio stations serving political pluralism – "Radio Liberty", "Voice of America" and BBC via FM frequencies in Azerbaijan were ceased on 1 January this year.

 
Five journalists have been subjected to long-term imprisonment for their stern criticism of the government on spurious charges and are still in prison. Two of them – "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" Newspapers' Editor-in-chief Eynulla Fatullayev and “Azadlig” Newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid are internationally and locally recognized prisoners of conscience.

 
At the beginning of this month “Yeni Musavat” newspaper column writer Mahal Ismayiloglu was subjected to two years of conditional imprisonment according to a politically motivated court decision.

For the first time since Azerbaijan gained its independence, two young bloggers – “Alumni Network” Youth Organization Coordinator, ANTV Online TV Leader Emin Milli and one of “OL” Youth Organization’s coordinators, well-known video-blogger Adnan Hajizade have been targeted by the government. They were attacked by provocateurs and sustained injuries. Although they appealed to police as victims, police detained Adnan and Emin as suspected persons. Cases regarding physical and moral pressure against journalists for doing their professional work are on rise.

Amendments and changes made to the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic on 18 March, to Law “On Mass Media” on 6 March, to Law on “TV and Radio Broadcasting” on 3 April and to Law “On NGOs (public unions and funds) on 30 June are also targeted at restricting the work of the mass media and civil society.

 

Taking all these into consideration, please bring up conversations about deteriorations in the sphere of human rights and freedom of press during your meetings with Azerbaijan’s officials and demand Azerbaijan’s government:

 
    * immediately restore the FM broadcasts of "Radio Liberty", "Voice of America" and BBC;
    * release Azerbaijan’s wrongfully imprisoned journalists;
    * decriminalize defamation;
    * prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all people responsible for attacking journalists and violating journalists’ rights;
    * eliminate the ban on foreign broadcasters in Azerbaijan’s national media market;
    * annul amendments and changes to the constitution and other laws that limit press freedom and development of the civil society;
    * end provocation and spurious charges against mass media representatives and annul the punishment of the journalists imprisoned wrongfully;
    * release young bloggers Emin Milli (Abdullayev) and Adnan Hajizade who were attacked and arrested on spurious charges, and punish people that injured them;