OSCE media freedom representative protests sentence handed down to Internet journalists in Azerbaijan
VIENNA, 11 November 2009 - Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, described today's sentencing of two Azerbaijani bloggers to prison terms on charges of alleged hooliganism and infliction of light bodily injuries as political.
"These new imprisonments cement Azerbaijan's image as the pre-eminent jailer of journalists in the OSCE region. Five journalists are currently in prison, several of them on clearly trumped-up charges following organized provocations and unfair trials," Haraszti wrote in a letter to Elmar Mammadyarov, the country's Foreign Minister.
A court sentenced Emin Milli, an ANTV Online TV blogger and Co-ordinator in the youth organization Alumni Network, to two and a half years in prison, while video blogger Adnan Hajizade was sentenced to two years in prison.
"The severity of the sentences for these young bloggers and other journalists who have criticized the authorities, including the President and the Interior Minister, is self-revealingly political," Haraszti said.
Among journalists imprisoned in Azerbaijan are Eynulla Fatullayev and Ganimat Zahidov, the two best known chief editors who are serving prolonged prison sentences on charges observers argue are fabricated.
"I hope that the appeals court will reverse the decision and release Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade as soon as possible. This will demonstrate to the international community that Azerbaijan takes seriously the OSCE media freedom commitments it has taken upon itself," Haraszti said.