The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Azerbaijan not to jail Azadlig newspaper chief editor Ganimat Zahid who has been a vocal critic of the government and now faces five years in prison on charges of hooliganism.
“This case is yet another example of Azerbaijan’s appalling record on press freedom and its attempts to silence by any means necessary reporting that is critical of the government,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “We believe that these trumped-up charges are yet another attack on the media and part of a long history of the government’s intolerance for investigative journalism.”
Zahid will have his last court appearance tomorrow, Tuesday, where he faces assault and hooliganism charges under the Criminal Code of the republic stemming from an altercation with two people in front of Azadlig’s offices in November. The prosecutor is demanding a five year prison sentence.
The IFJ’s affiliate in Azerbaijan, The Journalists’ Trade Union (JuHI), believes that the two provoked the fight in an effort to get Zahid arrested.
Other journalists have also faced criminal charges, including another colleague at Azadlig, Mirza Sakit, who the union believes was falsely jailed on a drug conviction.
Azerbaijan has one of the worst records in the world for jailing journalists and has undermined its constitutional commitment to press freedom, the IFJ says. It is calling on the government to drop the charges and set Zahid free immediately.
“Azerbaijan can show it is serious about turning around its bad reputation for media repression by dropping the harsh jail sentence for our colleague,” White said.
For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide