April 11th, 2008

Today a press conference on “Azadlig” Newspaper employee Agil Khalil’s defense was held.

During the event discussions were carried out on this topic. 
The head of Azerbaijan’s National Committee of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Arzu Abdullayeva announced that Parliamentarian Jamil Hasanli will chair the public committee to defend Agil Khalil, as he has accepted the offer of being engaged in Agil Khalil’s defense. 
Then Hasanli spoke and said that he takes up the duty to defend Agil Khalil, who was subjected to moral terror by the prosecutor’s office. “Anonymous text messages have already started coming since yesterday (10 April). There are insulting and threatening remarks in those messages because of this duty. Although the numbers are unhidden, I don’t know these people. I anticipate that these will continue.” 
Hasanli spoke with emotion. He said, “I call on all TV channels not to broadcast this kind of material. This is disgrace directed at the morals of Azeri nation. It is not possible to think that Azeri people are this naïve. The society won’t buy into this absurdity. Some questions arise during the investigation; why does a ‘loose’ woman appear in the way of “Azadlig” newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid and ‘gay’ Strekalin in the way of Agil Khalil? This is unlawful. This is a blatant violation of citizens’ rights. Journalists shouldn’t face this kind of provocation while fulfilling their professional duties. Law enforcement organs stand behind this terror.”
Director of “Turan” Information Agency Mehman Aliyev expressed his opinion and said that the independent media is oppressed by the government. Aliyev stated that they try to silence society before elections and to distract us from the elections in this way. “I call on civil society not to allow this,” he said.
Head of the Journalism School Zardust Alizade assessed the pressure against the journalists in Azerbaijan as something intended to destroy freedom of speech. He explained these actions, saying that people behind them want to make their work easier. 
*Apart from Jamil Hasanli, the Director of “Turan” Information Agency Mehman Aliyev, “Zerkalo” newspaper employee Mirgadirov and other well-known civil society figures have also received insulting and threatening text messages.