The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović,concluded a four-day visit to Baku during which she called on authorities to improve media freedom in Azerbaijan and offered them her Office’s assistance in reforming media laws.
The visit, which took place following an invitation from President Ilham Aliyev, was Mijatović's first to Baku.
“I had open and frank discussions with Azerbaijani authorities about the legal media framework and the latest developments in the media-freedom field. The concerns I raised were taken seriously” Mijatović said.
“We agreed that the media-freedom situation needs further improvement so that Azerbaijan can fully meet its OSCE media commitments. President Aliyev assured me that reform of the media environment will continue as part of Azerbaijan’s modernization plans. He also assured me that the Internet will remain free.”
Mijatović urged the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators and masterminds of all attacks on journalists, including the 2005 assassination of the Monitor editor Elmar Huseynov, are brought to justice. She also called on the authorities to prevent violence against the media and to ensure that journalists and social media activists can perform their work in a free and safe environment. In addition, she raised with the authorities the recent harassment of two journalists from Azadliq newspaper, and voiced her concerns about restrictions on the work of journalists during recent demonstrations.
“The authorities should allow for more pluralism, especially in the broadcast media. Access to information for the media should be granted to all media. Restrictive changes brought to the media legislation in recent years should be reversed, the transparency of the activities and accountability of the country’s media regulator must be guaranteed and the political independence of the Public Broadcaster should be ensured,” she said.
Mijatović offered her Office’s assistance in reforming media legislation. During her visit, she participated in a Conference on 11 May organised by the OSCE Office in Baku and the Press Council. At the conference Mijatovic expressed hope that a law decriminalizing defamation in line with international standards would be adopted soon.
In addition to President Aliyev, Mijatović held talks with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov; Interior Minister Ramil Usubov; Ali Hasanov, the head of the Presidential Administration’s Social and Political Department; Human Rights Commissioner Elmira Suleymanova, Aflatun Amashov, Head of the Press Council and Nushiravan Maharramli, the chair of the National Television and Radio Council. She also met with journalists and representatives of media nongovernmental organizations.
On 10 May Mijatović visited newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev in prison.
Source: OSCE. Published in Baku, 13 May 2011.