On Friday a roundtable was held in Media Center of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), which discussed several problems related to freedom of expression. The roundtable started with commemoration of late journalist Elmar Huseynov, who was murdered 8 years ago, on March 2.
Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev stressed that over the past one year the situation of freedom of expression has changed for the worse in all aspects. “During this period we have seen increased attempts to undermine economic grounds of media organizations and paralyze the distribution of newspapers, increased violence against journalists, huge penalties against independent media outlets and increased attempts to control the internet” said Aliyev. He also mentioned that increased pressure on independent media, specifically Azadliq and Yeni Musavat newspapers, attests to the authorities’ intention to ruin these newspapers. “Newly installed press kiosks look like mini stores rather booths. These kiosks do not sell independent newspapers” stressed Aliyev. He also underlined that Press Council’s support for the regulation of the internet was a serious threat to freedom of expression.
Azadliq newspaper deputy editor Rahim Hajiyev spoke about the pressure that the newspaper faced. Hajiyev said that the government was seriously worried over the public trust in certain independent newspapers which write true and unbiased information. Hajiyev added that he expected a rise in harassment of activists, as 2013 is the year of election. He suggested creation of a special group to protect the freedom of expression.
Khalid Agaliyev of Media Rights Institute said that since 2005, only six out of 500 cases of violence against journalists were investigated, and all of these six journalists were pro-government. In the past eight years, 160 journalists were subjected to criminal liability: half of these journalists were arrested, and the other half were sentenced to corrective labor. As of 2010, a new trend was started: in connection with their professional activity, journalists were put behind bars on charges of hooliganism, possession of drugs, etc. Up to 50 journalists have been arrested on such charges.
At the end of the roundtable, IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov invited the roundtable participants to commemorate late editor-in-chief of Monitor magazine Elmar Huseynov by visiting his grave on March 2, 12pm. Emin Huseynov also noted that, in the evening, memorial candles will be lit in front of the house where Elmar Huseynov once lived.