Thursday, November 30, 2006

Speaking of Azerbaijan

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has an excellent analysis of the perilous state of independent media in that country:

Most independent media outlets -- whether print or electronic -- that have struggled over the past 10-15 years to fill the "information gap" by reporting on issues ignored by the state-run media have been repeatedly subjected to arbitrary official harassment and reprisals and, in some cases, to libel suits that have resulted in the imposition of huge fines.

In early October, satirical journalist Mirza Sakit Zahidov, who had criticized President Ilham Aliyev in columns published in the independent newspaper "Azadliq," was jailed for three years on drug charges that his colleagues and international media watchdogs denounced as fabricated. Individual journalists have been beaten up, and Elmar Huseynov, editor of the hard-hitting "Monitor," was shot dead outside his apartment last year.

RFE/RL argues that this apparent crackdown on free expression may be the result of a power struggle within the Azeri regime, as opposed to an organized campaign. That may be true, but the impact on free speech is just as harmful.


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6:49 AM  

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