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Azerbaidjan4 November 2005

Letter to President Aliev on the eve of legislative elections asking him to guarantee the safety of journalists

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Reporters Without Borders says there have been many obstacles to the work of journalists since the start of 2005 and calls on President Ilham Aliev to guarantee the safety of the local and foreign journalists who will be covering the 6 November legislative elections.

Dear Mr. President,

Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the situation of press freedom in Azerbaijan two days before legislative elections that will be a crucial step for your country’s future.

All of the international TV stations that have come to Azerbaijan to cover the elections have been banned from broadcasting live footage. The satellite dishes of the Russian television stations NTV and RTR have been seized. The Turkish news agency Ihlas, which came to cover the run-up to the elections, was asked by the Azeri authorities to leave the country three weeks ago.

The role of the media is crucial in establishing a true democratic debate and we have the feeling, after seeing how often journalists are been prevented from doing their work, that freedom of expression is in no way guaranteed in Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, we remind you that at least 25 local and foreign journalists were badly beaten by the armed forces in the course of an opposition demonstration in Baku during the presidential election in 2003. Several of them had to be hospitalised.

We therefore ask you to take the necessary measures to establish a favourable climate for a free and transparent election and to guarantee the safety of all the journalists who are covering this crucial moment for your country’s future. We believe it is essential that the international community should have full access to news and information.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

Respectfully,

Robert Ménard Secretary-General




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