France, Strasburg / Trend corr. А. Maharramli, I. Alizadeh / The state of the Azerbaijani press was discussed at the PACE committee meeting on juridical issues and human rights held in Strasburg. The rapporteur Jaime Bartoum Jassany delivered a report on the illegality of slander being included into the criminal code. The rapporteur touched upon the state of the Azerbaijani press and the arrest of Eynulla Fatullayev, the Editor-in-Chief of the Gundalik Azerbaijan and Realni Azerbaijan newspapers in April 2007.
The rapporteur proposed to cancel the editor's arrest based on charges of slander and to apply principles of the European Court on human rights.
Seven journalists are still imprisoned in Azerbaijan, Eynulla Fatullayev, Mirza Sakit, Faramaz Novruzoglu, Samir Sadagatoglu, Rafik Tasagi, and Rovshan Kabirli.
International organizations are demanding that Articles 147 and 148 (slander) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan be excluded and to instead accept the bill on 'Defamation'. The government considers it still too early to pass the bill in Azerbaijan.
In 2007, the number of appeals and criminal cases instituted against journalists increased ten times since 2005, Andreas Herkel, the PACE co-rapporteur for Azerbaijan said during the meeting of the Committee on Juridical Issues and Human Rights.
The sources of the problem are in the Criminal Code, Herkel said. Many countries do not have the existence of 'slander' in their criminal codes. It is necessary to remove this particular Article. Imprisonment for slander is a poor way of doing things, Herkel said.