National Press Club

National Press Club decries crackdowns on press freedom in Azerbaijan

October 10, 2013 | By Jeff Plungis |

As elections drew to a close this week in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the National Press Club closely monitored deteriorating press freedoms in that country and the government's imprisonment of political opponents there.

The Club joined 22 international organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety of Azerbaijan, Index on Censorship and PEN International in condemning the arrest of journalists, bloggers and human rights activists.

"Recent developments in Azerbaijan suggest a government that's not committed to democracy, which includes allowing reporters to inform their audiences of facts that may not be convenient to people in power," said National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane. "It's deeply disturbing that a country serving as president of the United Nation's Security Council and that stands to become chair of the Council of Europe isn't respecting basic human rights."

The Azerbaijani government should immediately release all journalists, political activists and human-rights defenders jailed for commenting on public policy, Greiling Keane said, and the country must fulfill its obligations under international law to respect freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Azerbaijani authorities have persecuted opposition leaders and even their family members in the run up to the country's Oct. 9 election. On Sept. 27, a serious crimes court sentenced Hilal Mammadov, editor of the newspaper Tolishi Sado, to a five-year prison term after being jailed since June 21, 2012. Reporters Without Borders called it "a political trial carried out in a spirit of vengeance against a journalist critical of the government."

The situation has worsened with the adoption of new laws by Baku authorities to impose further constraints on the right of assembly. More than 100 people are in detention for political reasons, according to the Baku-based Human Rights Club.