LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST JOURNALISTS

March 17th, 2012
Media Rights Institute and the Baku Office of the OSCE held a roundtable to discuss the topic of Court Proceedings against Media on March 16th.  The roundtable focused on the delay of the decriminalization of defamation.

Rashid Hajili, the head of the MRI and the organizer of the roundtable, said that 3 draft bills on defamation have been presented to the parliament since 2006.

 

Early this year, the president confirmed a state program to support human rights, which program envisages the adoption of a new law on defamation.

 

But so far the law has not been mentioned, and as a result the journalists continued to face charges of libel and defamation.

 

Khalid Aghayev, MRI coordinator, presented statistics on criminal cases against the journalists.

 

Defamation charges against independent media:

–          14 charges in 2005;

–          29 charges in 2006;

–          103 charges in 2007;

–          25 charges in 2008;

–          28 charges in 2009;

–          71 charges in 2010.

 

In 2010, a total of 875,000 AZN compensation payments were demanded from media outlets, which were collectively sentenced to 37,500 AZN worth of fines.  In 2011 at least 32 lawsuits and appeals were made against media under defamation and libel charges. 8 journalists were sued for their articles. Most of the lawsuits and appeals were filed by state officials. In total more than 2.700 million AZN in compensation was demanded from journalists via lawsuits during the past year. More than 300 cases were launched against journalists, 21 journalists have been arrested, and the media has been fined 4 million AZN since 2005.

 

Alasgar Mammadli, IREX media lawyer, spoke on the cases sent to the European Human Rights Court, and noted that the Azerbaijani courts are often found to be lacking. He added that in the cases of Eynulla Fatullayev, Yashar Agazade and Rovshen Mahmudov, the EHRC had ruled that Azerbaijan was in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention.

 

Mehman Aliyev, director the Turan News Agency, noted that there is a serious problem regarding existing defamation legislation, though in his opinion it is not the most pressing issue with regard to freedom of press.

 

Arif Aliyev, chairman of the Yeni Nasil Journalists; Union, said that media is in a tough situation, and it is time to adopt a new law decriminalizing defamation.

 

Zeynal Mammadli spoke on the problems of the media and said that there are a lot of concerns. “A new law on defamation is urgently required. The adoption of this law will help journalists and media.”

 

Rahim Hajibeyli, editor-in-chief of the Azadlig newspaper, journalist Uzeyir Jafarov, leader of the League of Democratic Journalists Yadigar Mammadli, and academic Gulu Maharramli all spoke in support of a new law.