Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world's worst jailer. A CPJ special report
Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world’s worst jailer. A CPJ special report
Moscow, June 14, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately drop criminal charges against Mehman Huseynov, a photojournalist and blogger with the Baku-based Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and the independent Azerbaijani news agency Turan.
As the Eurovision song contest gets under way in Baku, Azerbaijani authorities continue to suppress freedom of expression, detaining 10 protesters on Monday, Reuters reported. The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan, a coalition of free expression organizations that includes the Committee to Protect Journalists, has launched a website, Facebook and Twitter pages to highlight the country's long record of repression.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and several other media and human rights groups have issued a letter after participating in the May 2 European Broadcasting Union-organized workshop on freedom of the media in Azerbaijan.
Today in its report on the Most Censored Countries in the world, CPJ singled out Azerbaijan for its lack of foreign or independent broadcasters and because the handful of journalists there who manage to work on independent newspapers or websites are subjected to intimidation, harassment, physical attacks that occur with impunity for those responsible, and imprisonment on fabricated charges. Recently, CPJ urged President Ilham Aliyev to reverse a crackdown on the press that has led to the jailing of at least six journalists.
April 2, 2012
Excellency Ilham Aliyev
President of Azerbaijan
The President Palace
Baku, Istiglaliyyat Street, 19
Republic of Azerbaijan
facsimile: + 99 412 492 35 43, 492 06 25
Dear President Aliyev,
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disturbed by the recent wave of journalist imprisonments in Azerbaijan. With at least six journalists currently behind bars, Azerbaijan is now among the top 10 global jailers of the press, ahead of Uzbekistan and just behind Ethiopia, according to CPJ research. This crackdown comes in the run-up to Eurovision, the international song contest that Baku is hosting in May, which will gather journalists from more than 40 participating countries and fix the world's eyes on Azerbaijan.
Your government has used significant resources to polish the country's image ahead of the Eurovision contest and make it appealing to its international guests. However, we believe your efforts would be meaningless if the government continues to crack down on independent voices in the country. By implementing systematic reform, and urging the relevant authorities to investigate potential abuses of power, we believe you could stem the deterioration of press freedom in Azerbaijan.
According to CPJ research, your government is holding in custody editor Avaz Zeynally and journalist Aidyn Dzhaniyev of the independent daily Khural; reporter Anar Bayramli and his driver, Ramil Dadashev, from the Iranian broadcaster Sahar TV; editor Ramin Bayramov of the Islamic news website Islam-Azeri; and directors Zaur Guliyev and Vugar Gonagov of the regional TV channel Khayal. We are attaching a more detailed list of the imprisoned journalists to this letter.
The journalists have been imprisoned on fabricated, politicized charges--ranging from hooliganism and drug possession to incitement to mass disorder--that stemmed from their work, CPJ research shows. Two of them have already been convicted and are serving prison terms, while the others are jailed pending a trial, according to CPJ sources.
President Aliyev, we call on you to exercise the high authority of your office and instruct the relevant authorities to investigate the cases of these journalists who languish in jail simply because of their critical reporting. We urge you to uphold your declared commitment to international press freedom standards and ensure the immediate and unconditional release of these journalists.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.