OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media Criticizes Pressure upon Press in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, Baku, 10 March / Trend corr E. Huseynov/ The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, said today that a four-year prison sentence handed down to the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Azadliq was part of an ongoing campaign suppressing critical voices in Azerbaijan..
"The harsh sentence against Ganimat Zahidov silences the editor of one of the few remaining newspapers critical of the government in the country," Haraszti said in the statement which was published in the OSCE official site on 10 March.
Zahidov was convicted on Friday for 'deliberately causing light injuries' and 'hooliganism' in a trial in which the court did not allow key defence witnesses to testify. The charges were brought against him after a street skirmish on 7 November 2007.
"By using charges not related to journalism to send Zahidov to prison, a pattern of repression as damaging as actual criminalization of journalism continues," Haraszti said.
Recent cases of imprisonment of non-governmental journalists on charges not related to their profession were part of this pattern, he said.
There are 3 jailed journalists in Azerbaijan. Ganimat's brother, journalist Sakit Zahidov, is serving a three-year prison term for alleged drug possession. Eynulla Fatullayev, who founded several popular political newspapers, is serving a combined 12 years on three different charges.