Freedom of the Press in Azerbaijan

by Marc W on 4/8/2008

I skimmed the Caucasus news today, and there are still several stories about Putin’s opposition to NATO enlargement (such as this one), but this one about an imprisoned Azeri journalist caught my eye.

Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor-in-chief of the Gundalik Azerbaijan and Realniy Azerbaijan , has been in jail since 2004 for various charges. He recently ended a two-week hunger strike after meeting with Miklos Kharashti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Press. Fatullayev had been on the strike to protest his detention and general repression of the media in Azerbaijan.

Fatullayev has long been a thorn in the side of Azeri nationalists, as well as the government. In 2004, he was beaten in a Baku street, allegedly in reliation for articles critical of the government, one of a series of beatings of journalists in 2003 and 2004. In 2006, Fatullayev was convicted of libel and sentenced to two years in prison, a punishment that he believes was relaliation for criticism of the Interior Ministry. Shortly thereafter, he was forced to suspend publication of his newspapers to secure the release of his kidnapped father.

The most recent prison sentence was in 2007, when Fatullayev received 8.5 years in prison for inciting terrorism by publishing a list of targets for the U.S. to bomb in Iran. (I have to admit, depending on the context, that does seem a TAD inflammatory.)

These are just the highlights of his record, and he’s just one of many Azeri journalists who have run afoul of the government. I wonder if any of this blog’s readers have any firsthand information to contribute about press freedoms in Azerbaijan.

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