Azerbaijan, Baku / Trend corr K. Ramazanova / The OSCE calls on Azerbaijani authorities to release the imprisoned journalists, decriminalise speech offences in general, and defamation in particular, and transfer their handling into the civil-law domain, the OSCE Representative on Mass Media Miklosh Kharashti said in his report.
"Progress in quality journalism should not be a pre-requisite to relieve journalists from fear of criminalisation. On the contrary, responsible journalism can only develop under guaranteed freedom to debate and to criticise," Kharashti said.
"I hope to be able to continue the dialogue with the Government of Azerbaijan to the situation of the independent media and its legal environment," he said.
There are eight media representatives imprisoned in Azerbaijan on criminal defamation and other charges. Ganimat Zahid, the chief editor of the Azadliq newspaper was the latest to be imprisoned. On 11 November, the Yasamal District Court in Baku sentenced Zahid to a 2-month prison term for hooliganism and assault charges.