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Azerbaijan3 April 2008

Journalists on hunger strike in protest against press freedom violations

Reporters Without Borders supports the hunger strike that a group of journalists have been staging for the past week in protest against violations of free expression and the imprisonment of three of their colleagues. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have joined in the protest, which was launched by imprisoned newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev on 26 March.

The press freedom organisation hopes the authorities will heed their call for the release of all political prisoners, including journalists.

The hunger strikers are also calling on international organisations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe (of which a delegation is currently in Baku until 5 April) to intercede and help to put a stop to violations of free expression in Azerbaijan.

“We regret that journalists have been driven to this extreme in order to draw the outside world’s attention to the constant persecution of the press and we urge the international community’s representatives to raise this issue in each of their meetings with Azerbaijani representatives and to remind them of the undertakings their country gave when it joined the Council of Europe and OSCE in 1992 and 2001.”

The editor of the opposition dailies Gundalik Azerbaijan and Realny Azerbaijan, Fatullayev was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in October 2007.

He began his hunger strike in his cell on 26 March to demand the reexamination of his case and to demand the release of Ganimat Zahidov, the editor of the daily Azadlig, who was sentenced to four years in prison on 7 March, and the release of Sakit Zahidov, an Azadlig reporter who was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2006.

Journalists with the newspapers Yeni Musavat, Gundalik Azerbaijan and Bizim Yol are among those who have joined the hunger strike. Human rights activists such as Arzu Abdullayeva and politicians such as Liberal Party president Avaz Temrikhan and Popular Front party vice-president Fuad Mustafayev are now also on hunger strike.

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Jusuf Ruzimuradov

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