SETBACK OBSERVED IN MEDIA FREEDOM AREA IN AZERBAIJAN

October 28th, 2009
On 26 October a background report was presented to PACE’s Sub-committee on the media and freedom of speech in several member countries.

According to the report, the Council of Europe area has suffered a “marked setback” in the overall level of media freedom in the past three years. The report was prepared by independent expert William Horsley The country-by-country report, by the academic and former BBC senior correspondent William Horsley, was commissioned as a contribution to a PACE report on media freedom being prepared by the sub-committee’s Chair Andrew McIntosh (United Kingdom, SOC), and presented at a PACE hearing on Monday in Luxembourg.

In the part about Azerbaijan the Azerbaijan authorities have been accused of arbitrarily imprisoning journalists and mistreating them in jail. Among the violations, the death of the editor-in-chief of Talyshi Sado newspaper Novruzali Mammadov in custody on 17 August 2009, police pressure against Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety Chairman Emin Huseynov, Elmar Huseynov, whose murder remains unsolved, and imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev have been mentioned.  

In his interview to BBC Azerbaijan, William Horsley explained the significance of this report.  

“In this report generalized information related to the media freedom, pressure against journalists, their arrest and restrictions against their activities in the Council of Europe area was presented to the Council of Europe parliament members during the last three years,” said W.Horsley. “The main result is that, journalists’ situation became more challenging both in Eastern and in Western Europe. The situation in media sector became worse in some countries including Azerbaijan, Russia, Belarus, and Moldova. The press freedom is under danger in these countries."

Horsley said that the council of Europe is concerned about the number of journalists arrested in Azerbaijan which is more than in other countries of Europe.

“We are concerned about the sentence against “Nota Bene” newspaper’s three journalists, and the imprisonment of two of them on defamation charges, the arrest of fanat.az website’s employees for defamation,” said Horsley.

Horsley added that the Council of Europe rejects the use of defamation in the criminal code and considers it unacceptable. The Council of Europe and the representatives of other international organizations brought this issue up before the Azerbaijan several times.

To read the full report: http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2009/20091026_HorsleyReport.pdf