Freedom of the Press

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

Freedom of the Press 2002

2002 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

77

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

28

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

23

The government campaign against the country's independent media intensified during 2001, particularly during the last few months of the year. Numerous journalists were attacked by police or unknown assailants, including Zamin Haji of the opposition Azadliq daily paper. In July, the independent ABA TV station announced its immediate closure because of continued pressure by the state authorities. In August and September, a number of independent newspapers were ordered to cease publication by court order or forced to close because of heavy court-imposed fines for alleged defamation of senior state officials. Shahbaz Huduoglu, the editor of Milletin Sesi, and Elmar Huseinov, the founder of Bakinski Bulvard, were sentenced to six months in prison in mid-September in separate cases for insulting the honor and dignity of the president's chief of staff and the mayor of Baku, respectively. Pressure by domestic and international groups led to their release from prison a month later, although both of their papers remain banned. At a November meeting of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, participants accused the independent publications Yeni Musavat, Azadliq, and Hurriet of anti-state activities; the state publishing house subsequently refused to print them. Police broke up demonstrations held in November and December by representatives from several independent newspapers who were protesting the government's restrictions on press freedom. Several journalists were beaten or arrested. In a year-end positive development, parliament adopted amendments to the laws on the mass media limiting the government's power to shut down newspapers or strip journalists of their accreditation. The legislation also abolished a requirement for media outlets to register with the ministry of justice before beginning publication. Most of Azerbaijan's print media praised the passage of the amendments, which some attributed to pressure from the Council of Europe.