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Azerbaijan25 October 2006

Authorities try to evict opposition newspaper

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the government’s attempt to evict the opposition newspaper Azadlig from the offices it has occupied at 33 Khagani Street in Baku free of charge since 1992. Pro-government newspapers that have free premises are being not threatened with expulsion.

“It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to use different measures with media according to their political position,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Opposition newspapers must be able to operate under the same conditions as pro-government newspapers.”

The press freedom organisation added: “This constitutes yet another press freedom violation in Azerbaijan, coming on the heels of the recent ban on the newspapers Realni Azerbaidjan and Gundalik and the threat to put a stop to local retransmission of foreign radio stations (the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Europe Liberty).”

Azadlig signed an agreement in 1992 with the mayor of Baku authorising it to use the Khagani Street premises free of charge. It was granted the premises under article 291 of the civil code, concerning the transfer of property without payment. But the State Committee for Property Control now insists the agreement is illegal.

The committee wrote to Azadlig in July asking it to pay rent arrears from 1997 until 2006. The newspaper refused to pay in the absence of a rental contract, but said it would be ready to pay after one was signed. They committee did not respond to this proposal and instead initiated a lawsuit to get Azadlig evicted.

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