VIENNA, 14 June 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, expressed today her concern over the persistent intimidation of journalists and attempts to restrict access to information in Azerbaijan.
“Only a week ago, I welcomed the release of social media activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, expressing hope that more good news would come from Azerbaijan,” she said. “Unfortunately, today I have to bring recent negative developments to the attention of the authorities,” she said.
In a letter sent to Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov yesterday, Mijatović raised the case of photo blogger Mehman Hüseynov, who faces up to five years in prison on hooliganism charges over an argument he reportedly had with law enforcement officers while covering a demonstration in Baku.
In the letter, Mijatović also raised the case of Anar Bayramli, a journalist working for Iranian media outlets, who was sentenced on 11 June to two years in prison on drug possession charges which he denies.
“I hope that the charges against Hüseynov will be dropped, and that all imprisoned journalists will be released soon, including Zaur Quliyev and Vüqar Qonaqov of the Khayal TV channel,“ Mijatović said. “Imprisoning reporters is never the right answer to critical journalism. The media should be free to play their essential role in society,” she stressed.
Mijatovic also expressed concern over the adoption by the parliament (Milli Mejlis) on 12 June of amendments to the laws “On Receiving Information,” “On the State Registry and the State Registration of Juridical Persons,” and “On Commercial Secrets”. The changes will make certain types of information no longer accessible to the public.
“These amendments could have a very negative, long-term impact on media freedom and access to information. This is all the more regrettable given that Azerbaijan’s legislation on access to information used to be one of the best in the OSCE region,” Mijatović said.
“I call on the authorities to do their utmost to reverse these recent negative developments. My Office stands ready to assist Azerbaijan in better fulfilling its media freedom commitments,” Mijatović stressed.