Azerbaijan11 October 2007
Government urged to free journalists at end of Ramadan
Reporters Without Borders today urged the authorities to mark tomorrow’s Ramazan Bayram festivity at the end of Ramadan, a time of forgiveness and tolerance, by showing clemency and releasing all of the seven journalists currently detained in Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan has been condemned many times by us and by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe for its repeated press freedom violations,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The country has undertaken to respect human rights but nothing has been done. It is time for a rapid improvement in the situation and an end to the constant persecution of independent news media.”
The press freedom organisation continued: “As Ramadan comes to an end with the three days of Ramazan Bayram, in which families get together to celebrate the end of the month-long fast, our thoughts go out to the seven imprisoned journalists who will spend this time on their own, cut off from their loved ones.”
The organisation added: “They were convicted on such charges as defamation or insulting comments. It is vital that these offences should be decriminalised, as they are repeatedly used to gag the opposition media. The authorities should seize the occasion to free these journalists and thereby demonstrate the sincerity of their promises of democratization.”
The seven journalists currently imprisoned are Sakit Zahidov of the newspaper Azadlig, Faramaz Allahverdiyev of the daily Nota Bene, Eynulla Fatullaev, the editor of the dailies Gundelik Azerbaijan and Realny Azerbaijan, Yashar Agazadeh of Mukhalifat, Rovshan Kabirli of Mukhalifat, Samir Sadatoglu, the editor of the weekly Sanat, and Rafik Tagi, one of his journalists. They are serving jail terms ranging from two to four years.