Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
November 19, 2010
HELSINKI COMMISSION WELCOMES AZERBAIJAN’S RELEASE OF BLOGGERS
WASHINGTON—Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today welcomed the release in Azerbaijan of two journalists who had been jailed in 2009 on charges widely seen as political.
“I am pleased that bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are finally out of prison. I hope we will not see any more such cases in Azerbaijan, where press freedom continues to be lacking,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Commission Chairman. The U.S. Helsinki Commission leadership wrote to President Aliev about this case last year, calling for the bloggers to be released.
The two men – sometimes called the “donkey bloggers” because they had made a film satirizing officialdom -- were arrested in July 2009, after an altercation in a restaurant in Baku. Though they reported to the authorities that strangers had accosted and attacked them, a Baku court convicted them of hooliganism in November 2009, sentencing them to two and two and a half years in prison. Their arrest and conviction were criticized internationally by many capitals and human rights groups as an attempt to stifle youth activism and free expression in Azerbaijan. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the issue publicly when she was in Baku in July.
“The release of these two bloggers is a positive sign from Azerbaijan’s authorities,” said Co-Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “I also urge the court to free Eynulla Fatullayev, in accordance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.”
Fatullayev, former editor of two popular newspapers in Azerbaijan, was sentenced in July to two and a half years in prison for drug possession. Fatullayev has said the government planted drugs on him. His newspapers, the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan and the Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, folded.
“As the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has urged, Baku should decriminalize libel, which would promote freedom of expression and could help improve the bilateral U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship,” said Chairman Cardin.
Media Contact: Neil Simon
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Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of the Media
Rule of Law/Independence of Judiciary