Jailed Azerbaijani newspaper editor receives Amnesty Media Award

Amnesty International this evening gave its coveted “Special Award For Journalism Under Threat” to Eynulla Fətullayev, an Azerbaijani newspaper editor jailed after criticising the government.

The award was presented by Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen and was accepted on Eynulla’s behalf by John Mulholland, editor of The Observer newspaper, at a ceremony at the British Film Institute in London.

In April 2007, after years of harassment by the Azerbaijani government – including beatings, threats and libel suits - outspoken journalist Eynulla Fətullayev was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in prison for libel. In October 2007 he was sentenced on further trumped-up charges of terrorism, tax evasion and incitement of ethnic hatred, and is now serving a total sentence of eight and a half years’ imprisonment. There was no plausible evidence to back up the charges, and Amnesty International believes that his imprisonment is an attempt to silence his independent reporting.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Eynulla Fətullayev is a truly courageous editor. Amnesty International is proud to honour his work this evening in the company of some of the UK’s foremost human rights journalists.

“The Amnesty International Special Award for Journalism Under Threat recognises the work of a particularly brave journalist. People like Eynulla face constant opposition and great personal risk, simply for exercising their human right to freedom of expression and doing their job as a professional journalist.

“Amnesty calls on the authorities in Azerbaijan to release Eynulla Fətullayev immediately and to stop its attempts to stifle freedom of expression.”

Eynulla Fətullayev started the Azeri language newspaper Gündəlik Azərbaycan (Azerbaijan Daily) and the Russian-language newspaper Realny Azerbaydzhan (Real Azerbaijan), which has become known for criticising government officials. Since his imprisonment, both newspapers have closed after their premises were subjected to a series of inspections by the authorities.

He also worked for the controversial opposition newspaper Monitor, which closed after the unsolved murder of its editor Elmar Hüseynov in March 2005. To date, no-one has been brought to justice for the crime, which Elmar Hüseynov’s colleagues believe was directly related to the political content of the newspaper. The investigation of the murder has been politicised, obstructing an independent or effective process. In 2007 Eynulla Fətullayev received death threats after reporting that high-ranking officials had ordered the killing.

Eynulla’s father, Emin Fətullayev, said:

“The news that Eynulla Fatullayev was to receive this award from Amnesty International delighted both him, and all our family.

“In his journalism, Eynulla Fatullayev fought for the truth, for the concept of democracy. He put his work before his family, and so I feel he is not only our son, but his people’s son.

“Every person has a vocation. Eynulla’s vocation is to be a journalist. He misses work very much – a person who was occupied with journalism from morning to evening, he has been in prison for two years.

“He is in prison for the truth, and I think that, when he comes out, he will continue his work in that direction.”

The Azerbaijani authorities are known to imprison journalists for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, and have attempted to silence dissent by putting pressure on publishers of independent media. Four more journalists currently remain behind bars..

Independent journalists in Azerbaijan are harassed and ill-treated by law enforcement officials and no-one has yet been brought to justice for several serious assaults committed against journalists by unknown assailants in 2006 and 2007.

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