Background Briefing

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To the Government of Azerbaijan:

  • Immediately release Rauf Arifoglu pending the outcome of his trial;
  • Investigate all attacks on journalists and prosecute those found responsible;
  • Provide training for law enforcement on human rights standards, in particular the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and ensure that mechanisms are in place to monitor whether police officers adhere to them in practice. Training should also include the rights of the press to report on opposition and other events and police activities and the right of the public to be informed about such events, including human rights violations, and other matters of legitimate public interest;
  • Ensure the impartial access for journalists to government information and facilities;
  • Repeal criminal insult and libel provisions from the criminal code;
  • Amend the civil code to establish a reasonable statutory cap on civil awards for non-pecuniary damages;


  • Set up a parliamentary commission of investigation or other body to investigate the issues of violence against journalists and informal censorship that would work with the OSCE Special Representative on Freedom of the Media to produce a program of action to improve press freedom in the country;
  • Ensure that government authorities facilitate, rather than block, the right to freedom of assembly, in particular by granting journalists permission to carry out peaceful public protests and by ensuring their safety at such gatherings;
  • Prioritize the founding of a genuinely independent public television station, in accordance with commitments and obligations stemming from membership in the Council of Europe.

To the International Community:

  • Urge the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure full respect for media freedoms in bilateral and multilateral meetings, and follow up on the Azerbaijani government's commitments regarding media freedom;


  • Monitor closely the activities of Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies, and ensure that any technical assistance or other aid to them is conditioned on a clear commitment to improving their record on harassment and violence against journalists and excessive use of force against demonstrators. Condemn publicly police violence and intimidation of media professionals.
  • Call for the abolition of criminal defamation in Azerbaijan;
  • Assist the Azerbaijani government to amend the civil code and other relevant laws to stop the abuse of civil defamation cases to restrict press freedom;
  • Provide interested journalists and defense lawyers training on defamation issues and internationally protected media freedoms;
  • The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media should encourage the Azerbaijani authorities to set up a parliamentary commission or other body to investigate the issues of violence against journalists and informal censorship and work with that body to ensure that an effective program of action to improve press freedom is developed;
  • The Council of Europe should continue to press the Azerbaijani authorities to set up a genuinely independent public television station;
  • The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should make respect for media freedoms an element of their country assistance strategies for Azerbaijan. Support for a free and independent media should also become an integral part of efforts to combat corruption in the country;
  • The European Union should use its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Azerbaijan to press for concrete improvements in the field of media freedom and other areas of urgent human rights concern. These reform demands should take the form of specific benchmarks, setting clear timeframes, and spelling out the consequences for non-compliance;


  • The United States government should use every opportunity to raise concern about abuses in the field of media freedom and other areas of urgent human rights concern with Azerbaijani government officials, and press for the authorities to take urgent measures to address them;

[107]  Human Rights Watch gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Alex Lupis, program director for the CIS region for the Committee to Protect Journalists, for his insights and contributions regarding the recommendations to this briefing paper.

<<previous  |  indexAugust 4, 2004