November 18th, 2009
Several recommendations were put forth during the conference conducted regarding “Defamation and speech freedom in Azerbaijan” that was organized by the Council of Europe and the Press Council on 16 November.

The conference participants believe that the initiative to not raise criminal cases against journalists over defamation that was suggested by the president four years ago should be applied immediately and financial punishment should be proportionate. The compensation should be balanced for civil cases so that it will not affect the freedom of expression and information negatively. Furthermore, the conference participants recommended the following:

– according to the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, there should not be special defense for high-ranking officials either in financial-legal or procedural laws, or in practice;

– productive means of a solution as an alternative to court trials such as mediation, the publication of apologies in the press, and corrections of mistakes or publications of response should be encouraged in defamation cases to decrease the number on these bases;

-trainings should be held regarding the European Convention on Human Rights and precedent law of the European Court of Human Rights, and also on their application on the country level for judges, prosecutors and lawyers;

– voluntary conduct codes should be compiled for the press and they should be followed;

-dialogue should be stimulated among judges, politicians and press employees including dialogue on local level so they can understand their duties and responsibilities mutually, and the risk of court trials may be reduced;

-Azerbaijan’s governmental organs should cooperate with the Council of Europe to conduct reforms in the legislation regarding defamation. The Press should be invited to campaign for responsible journalism by means of trainings supported by the Council of Europe and other activities.