IFJ Calls for Global Campaign to Free Jailed Journalists in Azerbaijan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on its members around the world to join the global solidarity campaign to fight for the realise of jailed journalists in Azerbaijan.

“Azerbaijan has one of the worst records for jailing journalists,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “The world community of journalists needs to come together to protest the criminalisation of media work that has trampled press freedom in the country.”

The IFJ was adding its voice to local protests in the capital Baku where there are currently ten journalists in jail in Azerbaijan, two of them awaiting trial. Some have been jailed on defamation charges while others were convicted of charges that observers believe were brought against them to silence their critical reporting.

The latest journalist to be jailed is Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Ilgar Nasibov who was sentenced yesterday to 90 days in prison for slandering local police officers. He was charged after he sent a letter to President Ilham Aliyev protesting police brutality in the city of Naxchivan. He was told that charges against him were being dropped but when he showed up at the court without a lawyer to sign what he thought would be paperwork dismissing the charges he was tried by a judge, convicted and sent to jail.

The IFJ and its affiliates is supporting journalists groups including the country’s Journalists’ Unions and a specific protest led by the Azerbaijan National Committee of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in the fight for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

Last month White spoke at an international media conference in the city to bring attention to the crisis facing media. He said action was need to improve the rights of journalists and to improve the quality of media, but it was urgent for the government to act first to free jailed journalists and to put an end to the use of repressive laws against independent media voices.

”The world’s journalists stand by their Azerbaijan colleagues,” said White. “We want to see change and urgent action from the Government to show they are listening to appeals for a change of heart over media policy.”

In meetings with government officials, journalists and media leaders White said the IFJ supports partnership with the authorities to try to improve levels of professionalism within a media system which is plagued by political interference, poor editorial standards and divisions within the community of journalists.

“Jailing journalists has had a disastrous effect on media,” White said. “Now journalists and authorities must work together to ensure journalists can do quality reporting without fear of reprisals.”

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide