Freedom House joined eight other leading media freedom organizations as part of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan’s freedom of expression mission in September. As a result of the three-day mission the group produced a report, Freedom of Expression Under Attack: Azerbaijan’s Deteriorating Media Environment, that details the many challenges that Azerbaijan’s bloggers, and journalists must endure to carry out their work, including hurdles both legal and societal: Critical reporting can lead to prison time; journalists have also been victims of violence, while perpetrators frequently go unpunished. The report is also available in Azerbaijani and a summary of the findings is available in English and Russian.
Azerbaijani journalists and bloggers who have suffered because of the hostile atmosphere include:
- Elmar Huseynov, editor-in-chief of the opposition weekly Monitor, was shot dead on in 2005 after he and other members of his staff had been continuously harassed by the authorities. His murderers have not been brought to justice.
- Eynulla Fatullayev, a newspaper editor sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for charges that international observers have labeled “baseless.” Fatullayev had been reporting on the murder of Huseynov and published other views to which the Azerbaijani government objected. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in April 2010 that Fatullayev should be released, but he remains in prison and now faces new drug charges that observers find suspicious. The nine Mission participants sent a joint letter to the Council of Europe about the continued imprisonment of Eynulla Fatullayev in defiance of the ruling and also sent a joint letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev urging Fatullayev’s release.
- Bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, who in 2009 reported an attack against them to police and were themselves arrested for hooliganism. They were sentenced to two years and two and a half years in prison, respectively.
Azerbaijani authorities have failed to comply with their international commitments to promote and protect freedom of expression. This trend is of particular concern in the context of Azerbaijan's upcoming parliamentary elections in November 2010, as freedom of expression is a necessary precondition to the fair and free conduct of elections.
For more on the press freedom situation read Freedom House’s report on Azerbaijan from the 2011 Freedom of the Press survey or watch the video below for an introduction to the media environment in Azerbaijan.
Please see the Freedom House's most recent joint statement, "Azerbaijan: Freedom of Expression Situation Worsens in Aftermath of Eurovision"