English PEN is shocked by the sentences handed down to two Azeri journalists for publishing articles critical of government officials. Reporter Faramaz Novruzoglu and Editor-in-chief Sardar Alibeili of the weekly independent newspaper Nota Bene were sentenced by a Baku court to two years in prison and 18 months of corrective labour respectively. They were convicted of defamation under Articles 147 and 148 of the Azerbaijan Criminal Code. English PEN considers the sentences to be in direct denial of the right to freedom of expression. It urges that Novruzoglu be freed, and the conviction against Alibeili dropped.
After Nota Bene published a series of articles in December critical of Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and other senior government officials, the former filed suit. The articles focused on friction and corruption within the Interior Ministry, and the lawsuits are believed to be an attempt to silence critical coverage in the aftermath of a former Ministry official’s trial on murder and kidnapping charges.
Novruzoglu was taken to a Baku prison immediately after the court hearing. In accordance with the corrective labour ruling, Alibeili will be given a state-assigned job and expected to contribute a portion of his salary to the government, according to local press reports.
For more information on these cases, visit the Committee to Protect Journalists website: www.cpj.org
For more information on PEN’s international campaign against all such misuse of ‘insult’ and defamation laws click here.
Please send appeals:
– Protesting the sentences served against Faramaz Novruzoglu and Sardar Alibeili;
– Pointing out that criminal defamation laws should not be used as a means to silence legitimate criticism of the Government, and that these sentences are therefore in contravention of the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by international human rights instruments to which Azerbaijan is a signatory;
– Calling for the convictions to be overturned.
Appeals may be sent to:
President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066 Azerbaijan
Fax: 00 994 12 492 0625
You may find it most effective to send the above appeal via the Azerbaijan Embassy in London:
HE Mr Raphael Ibrahimov
Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
4 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL
For more information on our Defamation and Insult Campaign, please click here.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/azerbaijanjournalistsimprisonedandsentencedtocorrectivelabourfordefamation/