Azerbaijan should immediately release journalists

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Strasbourg / 30.01.20 / Turan: The report “Threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists in Europe”, adopted on January 28 in PACE, should have a positive impact on the state of the press in Azerbaijan said in an interview with Turan the new PACE rapporteur on media freedom, Austrian MP Stefan Shenak.

“I hope for positive changes, they are needed, since the situation in Azerbaijan is far from ideal,” he said.

When asked what needs to be done to improve the situation, Shenak noted that it is necessary to repeal laws allowing imprisonment of journalists for criticism.

“This is their legal rights and it is very important that journalists work freely and can inform the public about their investigations,” the deputy emphasized.

When does Shenak plan to visit Azerbaijan as a media reporter and assess the current situation in the country? The speaker answered the question that he is already the Council of Europe rapporteur on Azerbaijan and in each of his reports; he gives assessments of the state of the press and journalists in the country. “However, from now on I am also a rapporteur on freedom of the press. Therefore, now I will pay special attention to issues of freedom of the press and journalists. First, this applies to those journalists who are imprisoned in Azerbaijan. Your country is one of the leaders of the Council of Europe in terms of the number of convicted journalists,” said Shenak.

Azerbaijani authorities say they are fulfilling their obligations in the field of media freedom, do you agree with this? The speaker briefly answers this question – “No, of course.”

“It is absolutely clear that the authorities are not fulfilling their obligations. Your authorities and your law enforcement authorities do not understand that you cannot block the expression of opinions. The report adopted on January 28 emphasized that Azerbaijan should not block the work of investigative journalists who should work freely and without threats.”

What steps should international organizations take to improve the situation in Azerbaijan? To this question, Shenak answered that the Council of Europe deals with the issues of murdered and convicted journalists in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Malta, Turkey and Azerbaijan. For your country, an improvement would be the immediate release of convicted journalists and bloggers. The Council of Europe will achieve just that,” concluded Stefan Shenak.

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