Prosecution of journalists in Azerbaijan continues to erode free media says OSCE representative

  OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today said she was outraged by the lengthy prison sentence handed down to journalist Parviz Hashimli, yet more proof of the deteriorating Azerbaijani media freedom environment.

“I am appalled by today’s court decision,” Mijatović said. “I call on the authorities to stop locking up members of the media to silence them.”

Hashimli, a journalist with the newspaper Bizim Yol, was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of smuggling and illegal storage and sale of firearms. During the investigation Hashimli repeatedly reported about harassment and ill-treatment. 

“There are now more than 10 members of the media in prison in Azerbaijan, convicted or awaiting trial, which is the highest number in that country my Office has observed since it was established,” Mijatović said. “This troubling trend discourages investigative journalism and contributes to a climate of threat and intimidation.”

Among the journalists recently sentenced in Azerbaijan are Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the news website, to 10 years in prison on various charges, including drug possession and incitement of hatred; Sardar Alibeyli, editor-in-chief of P.S. Nota newspaper, to four years on charges of hooliganism; and Rashad Ramazanov, an independent blogger, to nine years on charges of illegal storage and sale of drugs.

Abdul Abilov and Omar Mamedov, online activists and bloggers known for their views that are critical of the authorities, are currently facing trial on charges of illegal storage and sale of drugs. Rauf Mirkadyrov, a journalist with the newspaper Zerkalo, was recently arrested on charges of high treason.

Mijatović also noted the continued harassment of Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist with RFE/RL, including her recent summoning in a criminal investigation regarding the alleged leaking of state secrets.

In addition, the Representative received reports that on 14 May Laurent Richard and Emmanuel Bach, French journalists with Premieres Lignes, were detained by law enforcement agencies at Baku airport, had their records seized and were forced to leave the country without their records. Richard and Bach covered the official visit of the French President François Hollande to Azerbaijan and also prepared reports on the economic and human rights situation in the country.-16D-

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