United States State Department to Declare Report on State of Freedom of Speech in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, Baku, 12 March / Trend corr. K.Ramazanova / In 2007, the freedom of speech situation in Azerbaijan significantly worsened, the United States State Department reported on 11 March.
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press and specifically prohibits press censorship; however, the government often did not respect these rights in practice. During the year the government took action that limited media independence. The media freedom environment significantly deteriorated during the year.
Although opposition parties continued to publish newspapers, and human rights activists were able to conduct their work without fear of reprisal, the government penalized criticism from some sources.
The number of journalists who criticized government officials in the course of their work were subjected to criminal prosecution and/or civil lawsuits, some resulting in prison sentences and large fines. Journalists were also subject to harassment, threats, and acts of physical violence that appeared to be connected to their criticism of the government or specific public officials
Most newspapers and magazines were printed in government publishing houses or on private printing presses owned by individuals close to the government. The majority of independent and opposition newspapers remained in a precarious financial position; they continued to have problems paying wages, taxes, and periodic court fines.