JOINT APPEAL ABOUT AZERBAIJAN ISSUED BY INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE

June 10th, 2009
At the initiative of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) has issued a joint appeal on Azerbaijan. In the appeal the signatories expressed concern about the continuing deterioration of the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan.

“The press freedom situation has been in severe decline since the election of President Ilham Aliyev in October 2003,” it is written in the statement. “Defamation remains a crime in Azerbaijan for which journalists can be imprisoned, despite calls by the local and international community for its decriminalization. Aliyev's government fails to prosecute individuals who violate the rights of journalists and implement policies to cultivate a free and transparent media environment. As a result, Aliyev has been named a 'Predator of Press Freedom' by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its annual ranking since 2007.”
The statement then provides information about Azerbaijan’s four wrongfully imprisoned journalists and physical and psychological pressure that journalists in Azerbaijan face, as well as shortcomings in the broadcast media sphere.
In closing, the signatories, who include Article 19, Index on Censorship, and Freedom House, call on the government of Azerbaijan to:
    * solve the murder of Elmar Huseynov
    * end impunity for individuals who violate the rights of journalists and commit acts of violence against journalists
    * decriminalise defamation
    * release the country's wrongfully imprisoned journalists
    * restore RFE/RL, VOA and BBC broadcasts on FM radio
    * ensure pluralism and diversity of public and private broadcasters

The joint appeal can be viewed here: http://www.ifex.org/azerbaijan/2009/06/03/ja_gm/ .