CJFE protests closure of TV station in Azerbaijan

Friday, October 22, 1999

CJFE protests closure of TV station
in Azerbaijan

22 October 1999

Ms. Soudabah Hassanova
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
13 Bulbul Avenue,
Baku 370601 Azerbaijan
Fax: +994 12 98-59-31/93-54-87

Dear Minister Hassanova,

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), an independent organization which defends freedom of speech worldwide, I am writing to express my serious concern over the shutdown of Sara TV, one of only three independent television channels in Azerbaijan.

On October 9th, after recent broadcasts criticizing President Haydar Aliyev's son, an order was given by the Justice Ministry to close Sara TV. Fifteen police officers armed with Kalashnikov automatic weapons raided the station. The police did not have a warrant until after the raid when one was obtained from the Justice Ministry. The ministry defended the shutdown, claiming that the station had departed from its schedule of entertainment and culture and was breaking the law by allowing foreign ownership.

Censorship and persecution of journalists has been on the rise over the last year in Azerbaijan. The use of vague laws that allow the government to arrest journalists for "defaming the honor of government officials" is just one example of this censorship. This growing problem is even moredisturbing given that Azerbaijan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The recent action of your government against journalists is clearly a contravention of the Covenant.

I ask that Sara TV be allowed to broadcast freely and that the journalists working for Sara TV be permitted to work without fear of arrest. It is of utmost importance that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights be upheld. I assure you that CJFE will closely monitor this situation, and I urge you to take action in favor of freedom of expression.

Sincerely,

Lisa Roberts
CJFE Program Manager

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