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Azerbaijan20 January 2005

Editor of weekly harassed by court in libel case

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an Azeri court for hounding an opposition weekly newspaper by ordering it to pay a 15,000 euros fine in a libel case or face criminal charges.

Editor Elmar Husseynov, of the weekly Monitor, was told by a court in Nizami (Baku) on 18 January to pay the sum awarded three years ago for insulting the Azeri autonomous republic of Nakhitchevan (an enclave between Armenia and Iran)

"This effort to put the paper out of business is part of a plan by the authorities to silence all dissident voices," Reporters Without Borders said.

The paper had been ordered to pay the fine on 19 October 2003 for "insulting the honour and dignity of the people of Nakhichevan" in an article comparing them to the Sicilian mafia. The case was brought by the republic’s representative in Baku, Hasan Zeynalov.

The editor had refused to pay and the judge, Farhad Agamirzoyev, made the new order.

The printing and distribution firm Gaya received an official but illegal order on 10 December last year to freeze all proceeds from the sale of Monitor.

The plight of the opposition media in Azerbaijan sharply worsened last year, with their circulation falling by 10-15 %, partly due to official pressure.

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