Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although the constitution and media laws guarantee freedom of speech and the press, the government restricts these rights in practice and self-censorship is common. Libel is a criminal offense, and dozens of defamation lawsuits were filed during 2003 against independent journalists and newspapers who criticized the government and reported on corruption. Among those targeted were Yeni Musavat, a newspaper associated with the opposition Musavat party, and Elmar Huseynov, editor-in-chief of the Monitor magazine. The judiciary, which is not independent of the executive branch and is widely believed to be corrupt and inefficient, rarely renders impartial verdicts in cases concerning the media. During the weeks before and after the October 2003 presidential election, journalists suffered increased intimidation, detention, and attacks, including physical assaults while reporting on political opposition rallies. Yeni Musavat editor Rauf Arifoglu was sentenced to three months in prison for allegedly organizing public demonstrations immediately following the election. State and private television stations are under the control or influence of the government. The members of the National Television and Radio Council, which licenses and regulates broadcasters, are appointed by the president. Although the press enjoys greater freedom than the broadcast media, state-funded papers reflect the ruling party's position on various issues, and private print media often have ties to and serve the agendas of opposition parties. In 2003, a number of opposition papers were denied access to the state-run printing and distribution system. Most newspapers are printed in government publishing houses, which periodically have refused to print independent or opposition papers with unpaid debts. In January, President Heydar Aliev froze the print media's debts to the state publishing house through 2005. The country's economic problems limit the ability of independent newspapers to survive through newsstand sales, and government pressure on businesses restricts advertising in opposition publications.