Saturday, December 19

New hopes or yet another brick in the wall?

On December 17th, European Parliament adopted a resolution on Azerbaijan's freedom of expression (Full text is available here).

Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe and so it should and must abide by the council's obligation. The situation with the freedom of expression and human rights been deteriorating in the country over the recent years and 2009 was no exception. A number of negative developments this year- referendum, controversial amendments to the NGO law, arrest of young bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada- are evidence to the worsening situation in the country.

Adopted resolution calls for an immediate release of Eynulla Fatullayev, journalists sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment and both above mentioned bloggers. The two were sentenced to 2 and 2.6 years of imprisonment based on hooliganism charges. Many in the capital however, argue that their arrest had nothing to do with hooliganism and that the whole incident was staged simply to silence free voices.

An Estonian MEP- Tunne Kelam during the session expressed his concern with the situation on the ground: "the widespread practice of harassment, prosecution, and conviction of opposition journalists [in Azerbaijan] is alarming [...] We call on Azerbaijani authorities to release the journalists in jail without further delay. This concerns also two young bloggers".

There has been no official statement regarding the resolution yet. It shouldn't come as a surprise if its heavily criticised. Official Baku already dismissed rankings and reports of such international institutions as Freedom House and Human Rights Watch as groundless and one-sided.

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