Azerbaijani Journalist Awarded UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize
Freedom House congratulates Azerbaijani investigative journalist and press freedom advocate Eynulla Fatullayev, winner of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, for his efforts to promote freedom of expression in one of the world’s most hostile media environments. Fatullayev, who worked as chief editor of two popular independent newspapers critical of Azerbaijan’s government, was imprisoned on charges of libel and terrorism in April 2007 and only released in 2011.
“This prize is a recognition of Fatullayev’s critical role pursuing independent and investigative journalism despite threats to his personal safety and freedom,” said Courtney Radsch, Senior Program Manager for the Freedom of Expression Campaign. “We congratulate Fatullayev on this prestigious award and hope it will help to bolster international pressure on Azerbaijan to lift oppressive media restrictions and respect independent journalism.”
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in April 2010 that Fatullayev’s imprisonment was a violation of his freedom of expression and right to a fair trial, and ordered his immediate release, along with compensation for damages and legal expenses. Azerbaijani officials did not comply, but instead implausibly convicted Fatullayev of drug possession and sentenced him to an additional two and a half years in prison. Fatullayev's case was a major focus of the International Partnership Group on Azerbaijan since the 2010 Freedom of Expression mission.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2011 reports. Criminal libel laws that have been used to imprison dozens of journalists in recent years, and intimidation against the media through harassment and assault, have contributed to a dire situation for freedom of expression in the country.