The South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders


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"Human rights are timeless, but our efforts to protect them must be grounded in the here-and-now. We find ourselves in a moment when an increasing number of governments are imposing new and crippling restrictions on the nongovernmental organizations working to protect rights and enhance accountability. New technologies have proven useful both to oppressors and to those who struggle to expose the failures and cowardice of those oppressors." See further 

On March 10th, the British, French and US Ambassadors met with the representatives of the “Human Rights Center” (HRIDC), the “Georgian Young Lawyers Association” and “Multinational Georgia.” The aim of the meeting was to discuss the situation of human rights defenders in Georgia. Photoreportage
Access to Radio Liberty website “azadliq.org” from several internet providers operating in Azerbaijan has been restricted. According to the information on “Facebook” social network, access to the website of Radio Liberty was restricted by 5 providers - “Bakinternet”, “Azeronline”, “Uninet”, “Ultel” and “Connect.
The Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety condemns the restriction of access to Radio Liberty’s website by internet providers operating in Azerbaijan and assesses this as censorship by Azerbaijan government on the internet indirectly.
 
On 4 March, editor of the information agency Poligon (pia.az), Elmin Bedelov, gave a testimony at the prosecutor’s office of the Bilesuvar region.
 "Police arbitrariness and violation when dispersing peaceful rallies of citizens became a practice in the country," - says the Institute of Peace and Democracy

Police arbitrariness and violation when dispersing peaceful rallies of citizens became a practice in the country. They ruthlessly beat up those gathered in a café to honor revolutionary Che Guevara, those laying flowers at a memorial plate of Mammed-Emin Rasulzade, the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920), election observers with the opposition, journalists and activists with the civil society. In fact, having debarred citizens from the right to assembly (the last sanctioned rally took place on Nov 26, 2005, which was also ruthlessly dispersed by the police with tens of citizens seriously injured), the country’s authorities stifle any independent initiative resorting to the police.
"Today, journalists in Azerbaijan face harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for conducting their professional activities" - says  London-based  ARTICLE 19 

Journalists are imprisoned on politically motivated charges of defamation, inciting hatred, supporting terrorism, hooliganism, and drug possession, yet those who commit physical attacks against journalists remain unpunished.
Opposition and independent media outlets operate on an uneven playing field, with unequal access to printing and broadcast facilities, pressure on investors not to advertise in their publications, and excessive civil defamation lawsuits filed by public officials.
Self-censorship is pervasive, with few remaining journalists willing to accept the financial and security risks associated with pursuing investigative journalism. see the full statement

Jurnalist  Vakhtang Komakhidze's case arouses many questions, said Ambassador Per Erklund, Head of the EC Delegation to Georgia speaking at the February 24 meeting on public reliance to Georgian media held at Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel.
On 12 February, amendments and changes to the law “On Mass Media,” “On Freedom of Information,” “On operational-investigation activities,” “On intelligence and counter-intelligence activity,” and “On Obtaining information” were adopted in the plenary meeting of the Milli Majlis (Parliament).
On 10 February, in the Baku Appellate Court, under the chairmanship of Judge Aygun Abdullayeva, the appeal of Center for Assistance to Free Economy Head Zohrab Ismayil against the decision adopted by Narimanov District Court on his lawsuit against the Education Ministry was partially fulfilled.
Shota Utiashvili, Head of the Georgian Interior Ministry's information and analytical department denies pressure exerted by the Ministry upon journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze.
Azerbaijan’s government is considering making changes and amendments to four laws to restrict the operation of Mass Media.
According to MP Penah Huseyn, the Presidential Administration put forth a proposal to the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) to make additions and changes to laws “On Mass Media,” “On Freedom of Information,” “On operation-investigation activities,” “On intelligence and anti-intelligence activity,” and “On Obtaining information.”
In the press centre of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Poligon  information agency’s editor Elmin Bedelov held a press conference regarding his dismissal from Azerbaijan State Oil Academy for his critical articles.
On February 13, under the initiative of Journalists for Freedom of Speech the rally was held at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tbilisi to support investigative journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze.
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