To: Mr. Ilham Aliyev
On 21 December 2009, by taking advantage of your legislative initiation authority as defined by article 96 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, you sent a legislative proposal to Azerbaijan Republic Milli Mejlis (Parliament) regarding amendments to laws “On Mass Media”, “On Freedom of Information”, “On Obtaining information”, “On Operational-investigation Activities” and “On Intelligence and anti-intelligence.” The following amendment is proposed to five laws in the draft legislation:
“Excluding operational-investigation cases, following someone, and subjecting them to video, photo or voice recording by media representatives and other persons without them knowing it or with them objecting to it is punishable as defined by law”
We understand that this proposal emerged from article 32 of the Constitution, which protects personal inviolability. The right to personal and family life is one of the important human rights and cornerstones of decent life for everyone.
We are concerned that the cons of the proposed restriction exceed its benefits. This might result in the failure of the media to play the role of guardsman of society, and eventually the media will be significantly deprived from delivering to society the information that has public significance. We believe that the right to respect for personal and family life should not ban taking photos or filming someone being beaten in a public place. The objection of the person who beats someone should not be grounds for this restriction.
Interference in gathering information to protect personal and family life and in the journalists’ freedom to gather information will seriously impede the free flow of information and ideas serving public interests in our country.
Journalists’ work should not be limited to disseminating information provided by state organs, officials, and different people on a voluntary basis. The right of journalists to conduct information gathering should not be restricted to observations. Investigative journalists should have right to follow any person, to listen to any information using technical means and to write. In a democratic society the duty of journalists, and the benefit of journalists’ work for society is not less important than the work different state organs and law-enforcement organs is.
As the initiator of these amendments, it is in your authority to change them or call them off. We ask you to use this authority of yours to call off your legislative initiatives and propose to conduct an examination into these issues among experts and discuss them within society. We believe that this will be a big contribution to the balance between the right to respect to personal and family life and the citizens’ right to obtain thorough and accurate information about events in the society and the right to participate in the discussions that have public importance.
Aliyev Mehman – “Turan” Information Agency
Huseynov Emin – Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety
Elchin Shiklinski – Azerbaijan Journalist Union Chairman, “Ayna” and “Zerkalo” Newspapers Editor-in-chief
Rovshan Kabirli – “Mukhalifat” Newspaper Editor-in-chief
Ganbar Yusif – “Mass Media” Newspaper Editor
Baheddin Haziyev – “Bizim Yol” Newspaper Editor-in-chief
Ilgar Ibrahimoglu – DEVAMM
Novella Jafarogly– Azerbaijan Defense Society for Women’s Rights
Azer Ahmadov – “Azadlig” newspaper
Alasgar Mammadli – media expert
Habil Valiyev – “Gundalik Baki” Newspaper Editor-in-chief
Sardar Alibeyyli – “Nota” newspaper