Security officials try to sabotage documentary about imprisoned journalist

Published on 7 May 2010

As Norwegian journalist Erling Borgen and his cameraman, Dag Inge Dahl, were about to leave Baku early yesterday after spending six days filming a documentary about imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, security personnel at the airport confiscated a portable hard disk with all the material they had filmed. The security officials also took important documents.

However, Borgen said he had anticipated problems of this nature and made a back-up copy of all the filmed material, which was sent to Oslo by an alternative method. Editing of the documentary, to be called “A detainee in Azerbaijan,” will therefore be able to get under way very soon, he announced.

“This says a lot about the kind of regime that rules Azerbaijan today,” Borgen said. “They fear freedom of expression. I take this robbery very seriously and I have contacted the Norwegian foreign ministry and police. I admire my journalist friends in Azerbaijan. They display a great deal of courage.”

22.04.2010 : Journalists wrongfully jailed : European Court of Human Rights tells Azerbaijan to free imprisoned newspaper editor

Reporters Without Borders welcomes today’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg calling on Azerbaijan to release opposition newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev, who was sentenced to eight and half years in prison on 16 January 2008.

The European Court found that the charges brought against Fatullayev were politically motivated and had no place in a country that has signed the European Convention on Human Rights. Ruling that Azerbaijan violated articles 10 and 6 of the Convention (on freedom of expression and right to a fair trial), the court called for his immediate release and payment of 25,000 euros in compensation. “The imposition of a prison sentence for a press offence is only compatible with the free expression of journalists in exceptional circumstances such a serious violation of basic rights, for example in the case of hate speech or incitement to violence,” the court said, adding that such exceptional circumstances did not apply to the articles for which Fatullayev was convicted.

Reporters Without Borders urges the Azerbaijani government to comply with this ruling at once. Fatullayev must be released without delay and all the other charges pending against him must be dropped. Today’s ruling by the European court reinforces the suspicions of Reporters Without Borders and many human rights activists about the recent start of a new trial in which Fatullayev is facing an additional three-year sentence on a charge of illegal possession of drugs. Reporters Without Borders urges the judicial authorities to dismiss this absurd charge, which is clearly motivated solely by the desire to keep this outspoken journalist in prison.

Reporters Without Borders also appeals to President Ilham Aliev and to Ali Hasanov, the head of the presidential office’s ideology department, to put a stop to the prosecutions of journalists. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan must respect its values and principles or continue to be condemned. The press freedom organisation will monitor Azerbaijan’s compliance with today’s European Court ruling.

The government has shown signs of heeding the international community’s concerns in recent months, releasing another journalist, Ganimat Zahidov, on 11 March. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to give another demonstration of good will by freeing Fatullayev. As the last journalist to be held in Azerbaijan, his release would have a symbolic impact that would improve the county’s image.

The editor of two newspapers, the weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the daily Gundelik Azerbaijan, Fatullayev was arrested in 2007 and was convicted the following year on charges of “insulting the Azerbaijani people,” refusing to pay taxes and making “terrorist threats” in an article that was a political analysis.