IRFS calls upon Azerbaijani government to stop pressure on the media

June 18th, 2012
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns Yasamal District Court for sentencing the Azadlig newspaper to 30 000 AZN fine following the lawsuit by Baku Metro head Tagi Ahmadov and deems this action as the government’s intention to silence the criticizing media.

In its April 8th 2012 issue Azadlig newspaper printed an article titled “Tagi Ahmadov appropriated 5 kopecks”, which read that after the metro fares had been raised to 20 kopecks, it became impossible to use 5 kopecks previously loaded into metro cards.

Ahmadov asked the court to require the newspaper to issue a retraction and to pay 200 000 AZN in compensation, claiming that his dignity, honor, and business reputation were insulted in this article. Yasamal District Court ruled that the newspaper must publish a retraction and pay 30 000 manats to Tagi Ahmadov in compensation.   
 
IRFS believes that sentencing newspapers to such unfounded and exaggerated amounts of compensation is aimed at eliminating the independent media.
 
Government and pro-government officials can rule for immediate execution of compensation rulings, as was the case with Khural newspaper (http://www.irfs.az/content/view/7596/28/lang,eng/), and confiscate the equipments and properties of newspapers, which can be the end of the physical existence of newspapers.
 
IRFS believes that dignity and honor of state officials cannot become the subject of discussion in court. Even if they are criticized for the activities of their organizations, they should be tolerant towards these criticisms.
 
IRFS declares that Tagi Ahmadov could demand an apology, a retraction or compensation for material damage from the newspaper only if he had proved that the information printed in the newspaper was wrong.
 
IRFS calls upon Azerbaijani government and state officials to be tolerant towards criticisms, to stop suing newspapers and to put an end to pressures on the freedom of expression.
 
IRFS also calls upon international organizations to condemn Azerbaijani government for putting pressure on freedom of expression and to fulfill its obligations undertaken before international organizations.