Release of Bloggers a Positive Step for Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan | Freedom House

Release of Bloggers a Positive Step for Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan

Washington

Freedom House welcomes the release of imprisoned bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli in Azerbaijan and urges the government in Baku to take further positive steps for freedom of expression by releasing imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, as well as implementing the recommendations of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan.
 
Before their release this week, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli had been imprisoned in 2009 after being convicted of “hooliganism,” charges which have been heavily contested in Azerbaijan as well as by the international community.  Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the independent Realniy Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan newspapers, remains in jail on a series of trumped-up charges despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights that he should be released and awarded damages.
 
“Freedom House is pleased that two innocent men are now back with their families and able to move on with their lives,” said David J. Kramer, executive director at Freedom House. “It is our hope that this will include the ability to express their opinions online and off without harassment.”
 
In September, Freedom House was part of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan, a joint mission consisting of representatives from a number of freedom of expression groups. The mission met with government officials and civil society to draw attention to concerns regarding the country’s freedom of expression situation. A follow up report by the group gave a series of recommendations for improvement including a repeal of the criminal defamation law, prompt investigation into all violence and other threats against journalists, and a demand for the release of Hajizade, Milli and Fatullayev.
 
“We hope that the release of Adnan and Emin signals willingness on the part of the Azerbaijani government to respect its obligations under international law by taking stronger steps to ensure that journalists and bloggers do not face arrest for expressing their opinions. A first step would be to de-criminalize defamation,” said Courtney C. Radsch, freedom of expression officer at Freedom House who took part in the task force.
 
Azerbaijan is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
For more information on Azerbaijan, visit:
 
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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