February 26th, 2009
The U.S. State Department has released its 2008 Human Rights Report for Azerbaijan. “The government's human rights record remained poor and worsened in some areas,” it is noted in the report. “The public's right to peacefully change the government was restricted in the October presidential election.

Torture and beating of persons in police and military custody resulted in three deaths, and law enforcement officials acted with impunity. Prison conditions were generally harsh and life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of individuals considered by the government to be political opponents, and lengthy pretrial detention continued. The government continued to imprison persons for politically motivated reasons.” The report also notes pervasive corruption, restrictions on freedom of assembly, problems related to trafficking in persons and pressure on the media.
In the section on media freedom it is written, “During the year the government took actions that limited media independence. The media freedom environment continued to significantly deteriorate during the year.” The cases of the wrongfully imprisoned journalists, including Mushfig Huseynov, Ganimat Zahid, Sakit Zahidov and Eynulla Fatullayev are noted, as is the harassment of Azadlig correspondent Agil Khalil and journalists in Nakhchivan, and the attack on Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety Chairman Emin Huseynov. Another issue that is touched on is the Azeri government’s decision to cease the FM broadcasts of foreign broadcasters in Azerbaijan, including programming of Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFERL) and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) as of 1 January 2009.
The U.S. State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report on Azerbaijan can be viewed here: