OSCE Concerned about Freedom of Speech Situation in Azerbaijan – Ambassador
Azerbaijan, Baku, 6 March / Trend corr K. Zarbaliyeva/ The OSCE Baku Office held a workshop 'Defamation in OSCE: Legislation & Experience' for judges of the Baku Appeal Court.
The judges were informed of the European countries' experience in this field, as well as of the precedents of the European Court for Human Rights.
The head of the OSCE Baku Office Jose Luis Herrero said he was concerned about Azerbaijan's situation regarding freedom of speech and noted that the judges should apply to the European Court's precedents when considering criminal cases in this field.
The cases on defamation should be considered in a civil manner due to the possibility of abusing the Penal Code articles, Vafaiddin Ibayev, the judge of the Supreme Court said. According to Ibayev, the conviction of journalists for defamation will lead to the fact that the issues interesting for the public will not be discussed or covered at all in the mass media.
The study by OSCE revealed that the legislations of the majority of European countries envisages criminal liability for defamation, however, this it is hardly experienced or rarely applied.
One of the decisions by the European Court states that, in the case of defamation, the fact of whether the refuted articlewas published, the author's royalties for the material and journalist's welfare standards should be taken into consideration when determining the amount of compensation.
According to Ibayev, the country officials attribute criminal liability for defamation in Azerbaijan to the low level of professionalism of journalists, law violation and ethical codes by mass media members.
The Criminal Code's Articles 147 (calumny) and 148 (insult) stipulates criminal responsibility. The maximum punishment term is three years imprisonment.
Three journalists are presently jailed in Azerbaijan. Mirza Sakit, employee of the Azadlig newspaper was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for illegally possessing drugs; Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor-in-chief of the Gundalik Azerbaijan (Daily Azerbaijan) newspaper was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for terrorist threats and tax evasion. The trial of Ganimat Zahid who is charged with hooliganism is still on-going.