Freedom of the Media OSCE Representative Miklos Haraszti issued a statement condemning the recent court verdicts against five journalists related to defamation in Azerbaijan. He wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov expressing his concern about media freedom.
M.Harashti stated that the legal persecution of media employees in Azerbaijan has strengthened in recent years. He added that Azerbaijan is a leader according to the number of journalists arrested in the OSCE region. Haraszti called on the Azerbaijani government once again to make reforms in the legislation, and decriminalize articles regarding insult and slander from the Criminal Code.
On 8 October 2009 “Nota” Newspaper’s Editor-in-chief Sardar Alibeyli and the newspaper’s former adviser Faramaz Novruzogli were sentenced to three months imprisonment from the lawsuit of Azadlig Harakatchilari Union Chairman Tahmasib Novruzov. According to the same verdict, Ramiz Tagiyev was also sentenced to six months of corrective labor.
On 9 October, on the basis of an appeal adopted on the special lawsuit of several employees of the Internal Army against the decision of the Nizami District Court, Sardar Alibeyli was sentenced to total four months imprisonment in addition to the previous sentence against him.
On 7 October the Nasimi District court issued a verdict against “FANAT.AZ” sports website project head Zahir Azamat and website’s sports writer Natig Mukhtarli on “Khazar-Lankaran” Football Club President Mais Masimov’s lawsuit under articles 147.2 (accusing someone in grave or especially grave crimes) and 148 (insult) of the Criminal Code. According to the verdict, Natig Mukhtarli was sentenced to one year of corrective labor and Zahir Azamat to six months of corrective labor. The journalists have to pay 20 % of their salaries to Mais Masimov.