May 19th, 2008

“The Council of Europe expresses its solidarity with other international organizations, human rights defenders and organizations that are engaged in protecting speech freedom

and declares once more that the criminal cases against journalists are trumped-up and are actually intended to oppress the media in Azerbaijan,” PACE Co-rapportuer Andreas Herkel said during a press conference dedicated to the results of Monitoring Committee of Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe co-rapporteurs Andreas Herkel and Yevgeniya Jivkova’s trip to Azerbaijan.
“We clearly stated to the Azerbaijani government that holding the journalists in prison on doubtful basis damages the influence of the government more than when they express their ideas in mass media freely,” said Herkel.

During his speech Herkel emphasized that he was very concerned about the arrest and persecution of “Azadlig” newspaper employees and the shutting down of the newspapers led by Eynulla Fatullayev after he was arrested.

Herkel answered the questions of journalists about whether the issue of journalists was discussed during their meeting with the president. He said, “Yes, during our meeting with the president we discussed the issues related to the journalists, however, I won’t want to go into details of this discussion.”

According to Herkel, President Ilham Aliyev stated during their meeting that the Council of Europe’s influence decreased significantly in Azerbaijan after the recent events in Armenia. “However, I am not convinced that it would be reasonable to lower the standards of democracy, especially the standards in the area of speech and media freedom by using events that have happened in a different country as an excuse,” added Herkel. 

It is noteworthy that co-rapporteurs held meetings with representatives of NGOs, media organizations and government officials in Azerbaijan yesterday (18 May).
A report will be prepared about the results of the trip. 

Photos from this Herkel and Jikova’s press conference can be viewed at,com_datsogallery/Itemid,30/func,viewcategory/catid,54/