The OSCE Baku Office and the Organization Representative on Freedom of the Media have expressed profound concern today over new instances of imprisonment of journalists in Azerbaijan, Trend reports quoting a message spread by the OSCE Baku Office.
On January 30, 2007, the Narimanov District Court sentenced journalist Faramaz Novruzoqlu and Sardar Alibeyli, Editor-in-chief of Note Bene newspaper to two and one and a half years respectively, for libeling the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Chairman of the State Committee on Diaspora issues.
"I am astonished that a custodial sentence of two years has been imposed in this case and deeply concerned that the welcome appeal by the President to limit the use of the libel law against journalists has apparently gone unheeded. Such a severe response will do nothing to enhance the professionalism of journalists, but will surely serve to promote the canker of self-censorship", said Robin Seaword, Acting Head of the OSCE Office in Baku.
Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said: "I am sad to hear the news of the continuing criminalization of journalist work in Azerbaijan. Never has criminal disciplining of journalists resulted in higher professionalism, but it always stifles the freedom of debate in society. Besides, this practice is also against international standards."
The OSCE Office in Baku also urged authorities to quickly address legislative reform and to use as a basis Azerbaijan first defamation law, prepared in association with the Baku Office, by the local media NGO Yeni Nasil.