At least 370 journalists have been murdered in direct connection to their work from the beginning of 2004 through 2013, according to CPJ research. In 333 of the cases, no one has been convicted. In 28 cases, some suspects have been sentenced, or killed in the course of apprehension, but others believed to be connected to or to have ordered the crime remain free. Nine cases have reached complete justice, meaning all of the perpetrators, including the crime’s mastermind, have been convicted. CPJ maintains detailed records on journalists killings from 1992 to the present. For additional information, please visit http://cpj.org/killed.
On Wednesday, Azerbaijan will assume chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The chairmanship process is automatic; the position is rotated every six months among all of the council's members, in alphabetical order. But Azerbaijan's chairmanship has proven more problematic than most, as it comes at a time when the country's fulfillment of its Council of Europe obligations is at its worst.
In a joint statement today, leading international press freedom and human rights groups, including CPJ, condemned the ongoing repression of journalists and rights activists in Azerbaijan and urged authorities to address the issue immediately.
Your Excellency: The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to bring to your attention the deteriorating climate of press freedom in Azerbaijan, which undermines your government's commitments to press freedom and human rights, mars the country's international image, and obstructs the transparency of the upcoming October presidential vote in which you reportedly plan to seek re-election. We call on you to start reversing this trend and allow the press to report freely without fear of imprisonment, attacks, or politicized lawsuits.
CPJ International Press Freedom Award 2009
November 22, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen,
I've come back from a place where times stands still. Neither night falls there nor does day come. Bare walls, cold, dampness, and darkness rule. In that place, it is easy to forget that there is a colorful world out there, where people walk free and some of them are even happy.
In that place, the only thing that can help you overcome your fears is shame. Not shame before a mighty power, which has the capacity to physically destroy you only because you have exercised your right to freedom of expression. But shame that comes with the realization that a journalist who gives in to intimidation, who becomes obedient, has already lost the fight for that right. And only press freedom can beget truth.
Six years ago, my colleague and close friend Elmar Huseynov was murdered. He was a brave journalist and a sharp critic of the administration.
Paying my last tribute to Elmar, I made an oath that I would solve his killing. Some time passed and I succeeded in tracking down the criminals who committed this atrocity for the purpose of silencing him. Because I found the criminals, I was immediately sent to prison.
The two newspapers I edited--which were the most popular in Azerbaijan at the time--were shuttered by a government that has no tolerance of criticism and alternative views. About 100 journalists who were on my staff or collaborated with my newspapers were subjected to all kinds of harassment--threats, beatings, persecution.
As for me, I was sentenced to a total of 16 years of imprisonment on a variety of fabricated charges--from defamation, to tax evasion, to terrorism. All of my property--including editorial equipment and even my personal computer--was confiscated. I experienced the retaliation of a relentless, repressive state at its full capacity.
In my hour of need, when I felt isolated and deserted, when I had almost lost hope that I would ever be let out of jail alive, the Committee to Protect Journalists did its utmost to save me.
I spent more than four years in detention, of which two years in solitary confinement. It was my father only who had access to me. Every week he would bring me news about your advocacy efforts, about your statements and actions in my support. These actions seemed to keep his spirits up, and kindle his and my hopes. Yes, it was your Committee that played a crucial role in my release.
Two years ago, dejected, I was sitting in my damp, dimly lit solitary cell, giving myself to solemn thoughts about the ups and downs of fortune. Every day felt like it could be my last. Suddenly, I learnt that your Committee had granted me this high prize. I felt happy, for I realized that I had escaped oblivion.
Today I'm free thanks to you and the efforts of the international community. I am trying to be conscious of what has happened, and of my responsibility to this high prize. The state's actions against me failed to shut me up and today I am determined to restart my newspapers. My readers and the people of Azerbaijan deserve to have them back.
Once again I'd like to thank you for this high honor!
Strasbourg prides itself on being the "European capital of human rights." The historic French city, located on the border with Germany, is home to the Council of Europe (CoE), a 47-member institution focused on the promotion of democracy and the rule of law.
It is also the seat of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), whose rulings have consistently defended press freedom against abrasive judgments or abusive practices of CoE member states.
The authoritarian government of President Ilham Aliyev relied on imprisonments and an atmosphere of impunity to suppress independent journalism. Aliyev, who essentially inherited the presidency of the strategic Caspian Sea nation from his father, used the country's vast oil and gas resources to play off the competing interests of traditional partners Russia and Turkey with those of newer allies such as the European Union and the United States.
Life is full of surprises. In Eurasia, authoritarian leaders and their entourages like to pull them out around the holidays. What made my eyes open wide this season was a news report from Azerbaijan, dated December 29. The Baku-based Trend news agency said President Ilham Aliyev had been given the "Journalists' Friend Award" by the Azerbaijani Committee for the Protection of Journalists. That's the same President Aliyev whose government is imprisoning newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev in defiance of two rulings by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.