Freedom of Speech is No Freedom in Azerbaijan

Chairwoman Hautala received with delight news over the release of bloggers, Emin Milli on 19 November 2010 and Adnan Hajizade, in Azerbaijan on 18 November 2010. She remains deeply dissatisfied, however, with the continuing detention of editor Eynulla Fatullayev and other journalists. [:] 

Emin Milli, editor of the Internet television site, ANOT, and Adnan Hajizade, co-founder of the youth movement OL, were physically attacked in Baku in July. Once they went to make a complaint of the attack to the police it was them who the police decided to detain instead of their attackers. In November they were convicted for hooliganism and causing bodily harm and sentenced them to two and two and half years of imprisonment, respectively.


Chairwoman Hautala has received numerous communications from international human rights organisations expressing concern that the charges against Mr Milli and Mr Hajizade stem from their critical advocacy against corruption in Azerbaijan. She considers that such concerns are credible in light of the fact that there are several journalists and bloggers in prison in Azerbaijan due to their publicly similarly expressed criticism of the state administration.


Indeed, news of the release of Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade do not tell of an improvement in the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Not only remains the founder and chief editor of the newspapers Gündəlik Azərbaycan and Realny Azerbaijan, Mr Eynulla Fatullayev, in prison contrary to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, journalists and bloggers continue to face persistent int and abuse in Azerbaijan. Defamation and criminal charges are used routinely to silence critical voices. This torrent of abuse by the authorities towards freedom of speech is in risk of being further exacerbated by the referendum of the constitutional amendments, undertaken in February 2009, which might enable the current president Ilham Aliyev to stay in office indefinitely.


Respecting the right to express one’s views is not optional for Azerbaijani authorities. Chairwoman Hautala recalls that Azerbaijan is a party to the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which foresees in Article 19 that everyone has the right to right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions. This right furthermore includes freedom to seek and impart information either orally, in writing or in print. Similarly, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Azerbaijan is also a party to, states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions, without interference by public authority.


Under international human rights law I emphasise in strongest terms that it is long overdue for the Azerbaijani authorities to release all imprisoned journalists and bloggers and seize their harassment immediately.

In particular, to honour their commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights, I urge the authorities to fully comply with the Court’s judgment of 22 April 2010, concerning the case of Mr Eynulla Fatullayev, where it found, amongst others, Azerbaijan in violation of Article 10 of the Convention and stated that Mr Fatullayev must be released immediately.