IRFS statement on huge fine imposed on Yeni Musavat newspaper

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns decision of the Baku Administrative-Economic Court #2, issued on July 31, in a defamation case initiated by Gilan Gabala Cannery LLC against Yeni Musavat newspaper.

 The newspaper was ordered to pay damages of 50,000 AZN to . Gilan Gabala Cannery LLC . IRFS considers this decision as a suppression of critical media and   reiterates that it is profoundly concerned with the abuse of criminal defamation law in Azerbaijan.

Gilan Gabala Cannery LLC originally filed the lawsuit against  Yeni Musavat newspaper for the article “Juice called JALE is Very Dangerous” published in Yeni Musavat newspaper for several times between 2009 and 2011 requesting one million AZN  in compensation.
. Granting the lawsuit partially, the court imposed a 50 000 AZN fine on Yeni Musavat.
IRFS considers that the director of the Gilan Gabala Cannery LLC Kamaladdin Heydarov, who is at the same time minister of emergency situations, shows intolerance to any criticism about his enterprise printed in newspapers.
IRFS declares that if the business reputation of a company is actually damaged by a newspaper they may demand that the newspaper apologize and print a retraction. However officials are not often satisfied with it and demanding huge compensations they try to punish those newspapers.
IRFS reminds that the case against Yeni Musavat newspaper is a part of a broader practice.  IRFS is deeply concerned about the use of defamation lawsuits to intimidate and silence criticism, opposition or dissent and have a chilling effect on the free flow of information in the country.

IRFS strongly believes that all criminal defamation laws violate the guarantee of freedom of expression. IRFS also notes that unduly harsh sanctions such as prison sentences are fines, violate the right to freedom of expression, particularly when the fines are extraordinary high as in the Yeni Musavat newspaper case. IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani government and officials to be tolerant to criticisms of the media and refrain from suppressing the freedom of expression by means of exerting strong financial pressure. IRFS calls on President of Azerbaijan to use his power to stop attacks on press freedom.
IRFS calls on International organizations to demand from Azerbaijani government to put an end to the pressure on press and fulfill its obligations undertaken before international organizations.

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