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.
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.
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.
New York, December 30, 2010--Azerbaijan's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev's motion to be freed pending his appeal of a drug conviction, the Turan news agency reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists has concluded the drug charge was falsified as a means of keeping Fatullayev in jail despite European Court of Human Rights' rulings that he be released immediately.
New York, March 19, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison on Thursday of Azerbaijani editor Genimet Zakhidov, who served more than half of a four-year term on fabricated “hooliganism” charges.
“We're relieved Azerbaijani officials released our colleague Genimet Zakhidov, who served 28 long months in prison in retaliation for his critical journalism,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
New York, March 1, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement today in response to Azerbaijani press reports that the isolated detention of imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev, a 2009 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, on a new trumped-up charge of drug possession, has been prolonged by two months.
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.