Statement: Khayal TV journalists’ conviction must be quashed on appeal

March 16th, 2013

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is relieved by the news that the Khayal TV journalists, Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev have been freed on suspended sentence. However, seven other journalists are currently in detention or in prison on politically motivated charges in connection with freedom of expression.

That the seven journalists remain in prison, and that the two, while free, have not been acquitted, is deeply shocking. IRFS continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Gonagov and Guliyev were detained arbitrarily since 13 March 2012 for allegedly causing rioting in the northern town of Guba. In its March 15 ruling, the Khachmaz district court convicted the pair over “organizing public disorder” and “abuse of office” under articles 233 and 309.2 of the criminal code.

IRFS condemns their conviction and calls for the quashing of the convictions on appeal.

IRFS denounces the conviction as a direct violation of Gonagov and Guliyev’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of information and more broadly as an assault on press freedom in Azerbaijan.

“We are pleased by the release of Gonagov and Guliyev, but are still concerned by their guilty verdicts. These convictions must be quashed, and the authorities must refrain from prosecuting individuals who freely exercise their fundamental rights”, said IRFS Chair Emin Huseynov.

IRFS reminds that right now, seven journalists are behind bars on politically motivated charges. These journalists are: Khural newspaper chief editor Avaz Zeynalli, freelance journalists Faramaz Novruzoglu and Fuad Huseynov, Tolishy Sado newspaper chief editor Hilal Mammadov, Yeni Musavat newspaper journalist Tofig Yagublu,  azadxeber.org website editor Nijat Aliyev and xeber44.com website editor Araz Guliyev.

The right to freedom of expression and information is guaranteed and protected by the provisions of international instruments, and treaties signed and ratified by the Government of Azerbaijan, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 19, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 19, and the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10.

IRFS calls on the authorities to unconditionally release all journalists currently detained or facing charges related to their exercise of fundament rights, including freedom of expression.