VIENNA, 14 October - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti condemned today recent criminal defamation trials in Azerbaijan which resulted in the conviction of five journalists, with two receiving prison sentences. Haraszti said he had expressed his concern about the convictions in a letter to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
"These convictions have exacerbated the legal persecution of media workers in Azerbaijan in the recent years. There are five imprisoned journalists in Azerbaijan, the highest number in the OSCE region," he said.Chief editor Sardar Alibayli and correspondent Faramaz Allahverdiyev of Nota newspaper lost an appeal in Baku on 8 October, and must serve sentences of three months' imprisonment for defamation. Another correspondent of Nota, Ramiz Tagiyev, was sentenced to six months suspended imprisonment for the same offence.In a separate case, a Baku court convicted the chief of Fanat.az website, Zahid Azamat, and a staff member, Natig Mukhtarly, for defamation. They were sentenced to six months and one year of corrective labour respectively."I call on your Government to review the latest sentences against the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, which in no case has approved imprisonment of journalists for professional mistakes," said Haraszti in the letter to Minister Mammadyarov.
"I ask the Government of Azerbaijan to start the reform process to decriminalize defamation completely. It is high time that Azerbaijan stopped launching such discreditable cases once and for all."
For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/item/40750.html