NAGORNO-KARABAKH: Jailed journalist sentenced for defamation

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New York, April 12, 2000
— Two weeks after being arrested and detained without charge, a Nagorno-Karabakh journalist has been sentenced to serve one year in prison for defaming a public official.

Today, a court in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic-Armenian enclave in south-eastern Azerbaijan, found Vahram Aghajanian guilty of libeling the self-proclaimed prime minister of the territory, Anushavan Danielian.

The article which the court found libelous was published last November in the local newspaper Tasnerord Nahang. Aghajanian was detained on March 28, after Nagorno-Karabakh Interior Ministry officials ransacked his apartment in the capital, Stepanakert. No evidence of any wrongdoing was found, and Aghajanian was not formally charged with any crime.

“Journalists should never be jailed for practicing their profession”, said Emma Gray, CPJ’s Europe program coordinator. “We call on the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to reverse this outrageous decision and release Aghajanian immediately.”

As a result of hostilities, the Azerbaijani government is presently unable to exercise control over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. CPJ addresses Nagorno-Karabakh authorities as those with de facto control (and responsibility) over the area, and not as a recognition of their sovereign claim. .