An independent United Nations human rights expert has voiced concern about press freedom in Azerbaijan while reporting that his recent meetings there offered hope that court decisions which have caused a prevailing sense of fear among journalists will be reviewed.
“While the Government and State institutions have expressed a willingness to conduct a more open dialogue with media representatives and international organizations, the media environment is marked by various deficiencies,” said Ambeyi Ligabo, the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, in a statement released in Geneva.
He noted that his information indicated the defamation legislation “in not in line with the increasing trend towards decriminalization of related offences, and courts tend to be particularly severe in judging media professionals.”
During his visit to Azerbaijan in late April, Mr. Ligabo met with President Ilham Aliyev, senior State and government officials, as well as representatives of the media, trade unions and members of the civil society. He also held an exchange of views with members of the diplomatic corps and senior officials of international organizations.
He noted that journalists and other media professionals have sometimes been victims of repression, including violence and persecution by some law enforcement officials, and spotlighted the need for measures to create favorable economic conditions “in which the rights to freedom of expression and information can be fully enjoyed.”
At the same time, Mr. Ligabo said he was encouraged by his official meetings and voiced hope that measures will be taken to review national policies and several courts decisions “which have created a widespread sense of fear and censorship among journalists thus diminishing their editorial freedom.”
The expert, who acts in an independent personal capacity, will report his findings to the UN Human Rights Council.