Today U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse presented the State Department’s 2007 Report on Human Rights Practices in a ceremony held in the U.S. embassy’s office in the Landmark building.
Derse said, “Unfortunately the 2007 report does not reflect striking development, however in a number of areas we did observe obvious progress. Press freedom is the area that arouses the most concern. Violent crimes against journalists persist. All of the people responsible for these, including the murder of Elmar Huseynov, have gone unpunished. And the number of trials against journalists for slander has increased. Despite the signing of the pardon decree, there are still some journalists in prison.” In addition to press freedom, Derse also touched on the pre-election situation, and positively assessed the granting of a six-year license to ANS TV.
Milli Mejlis Human Rights Committee Chairperson Rabiyyet Aslanova, representatives from the Ombudsman’s office, and human rights advocates Saadet Bananyarli, Murad and Rena Saddeddinov, Novella Jafaroglu, Saida Gojamanli, Elchin Behbudov, and Emin Huseynov (IRFS Chairman) participated in today’s ceremony.
Rabiyyet Aslanova said that there are some biased aspects of the State Department’s report. In particular, Aslanova said she did not agree with claims that prisoners are tortured in Azerbaijan and journalists are persecuted. The human rights advocates said that they believe the report reflects reality, but could have been written more harshly. IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov said that in the future Mushfig Huseynov should be noted as the fourth wrongfully imprisoned journalist in Azerbaijan, because he was arrested on a political order as the result of a specially organized operation involving entrapment. E. Huseynov also noted that it would be good to write more comprehensively about the lack of freedom in the areas of television, radio and the internet.