OSCE Representative Expresses Concern over Persecution of Journalists in Azerbaijan

Society Materials 11 April 2008 14:28 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, 11 April /corr. Trend K.Ramazanova / Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, expressed his concern over the continuing persecution of investigative journalists in Azerbaijan.

"Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies have recently fabricated accusations against several independent investigative journalists. This is especially regrettable in a democracy that has overcome the era when prosecutors faked cases against those with ideas that the government did not like," said Haraszti at the end of his visit to Baku.

On 13 March, at 8.00pm Agil Khalil, a journalist of the Azadlyg newspaper, was stabbed in the chest. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office of Azerbaijan announced that the journalist was injured on the basis of jealousy by Sergey Strekalin, who had intimate relations with the suffered.

The three detained journalists held in Azerbaijan are Ganimat Zahid, chief editor of Azadlig newspaper, Mirza Sakit, a journalist of Azadlig newspaper, and Eynulla Fatullayev, chief editor of Gundalik Azerbaijan and Realni Azerbaijan newspapers.

"All three journalists are serving sentences based on made-up charges, such as terrorism, tax evasion, drug possession and hooliganism," said Haraszti.

According to him, the most recent case of Agil Khalil, in addition to three other journalists currently in prison, further demonstrates the dangerous trend of improper involvement of law enforcement in fighting critical voices.

Haraszti calls on the TV channels which disgracefully aired this smear campaign to stop being a tool in a propaganda drive against one of their colleagues. "I also call on law enforcement bodies to stop the wave of smear campaigns and bring to justice the perpetrators of violence against journalists," he said.

The OSCE Representative asked the Azerbaijani government to release the imprisoned journalists, regardless of whether they have signed pardoning petitions, and to stop the persecution of the few remaining critical media in the country, adding that it was time "to start the long due reform on decriminalization of speech offences".

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