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Azerbaijan28 August 2007

Regime criticised for press rights violations

Reporters Without Borders called today on the Azeri government to “stop cracking down on independent and opposition journalists” after the European Parliament’s human rights committee was told by top EU official Rutger Wissels at hearings on 27 August that the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan was “not acceptable.”

The worldwide press freedom organisation noted that the Azeri supreme court had on 21 August upheld an appeals court’s two-year prison sentence for libel imposed on journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the newspapers Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaïdjan. His lawyer said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“The number of lawsuits against Azeri journalists is growing,” it said, “and when journalists are imprisoned, they are held in very poor conditions. The health of Faramaz Allahverdiev of Nota Bene, jailed for two and a half years for libel, has worsened after a recent operation at a prison hospital. His family says he needs a second operation but it will be risky because he is already weak.”

Emin Eyyubov, head of the Azeri mission to the EU, and human rights activist Arzu Abdullayeva, gave evidence to the European Parliament committee hearings, which are part of a review of the EU’s “neighbourhood policy.” Committee member Fazil Gazanfaroglou said the Azeri government must “learn to resolve such problems by itself.” He said “concern about democracy would be expressed by the country’s authorities but would unfortunately not be followed by any real action and no journalists would be released from prison.”




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