Censorship Plagues Press in Armenia, Azerbaijan, CPJ Reports
(CPJ/IFEX) - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on the
governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia today to respect the right to a free
press accorded citizens in democracies and to provide guarantees enabling
journalists there to work freely and safely, without fear of reprisal.
"Censorship continues to plague journalists in Azerbaijan, where it is practiced
outright, as well as in Armenia, where strict government controls are tantamount
to censorship," said Nicholas Daniloff, the veteran journalist who investigated
the status of press freedom in the two countries for CPJ. His study, titled
"Paradoxes in the Caucasus: A Report on Freedom of the Media in Azerbaijan and
Armenia," will be released publicly today at a 3:30 p.m. briefing in the Woodrow
Wilson Center Library of the Smithsonian in Washington.
CPJ's executive director, William A. Orme, Jr., said that the report was
prompted by persistent political and military censorship, restrictive media
legislation, and numerous violent attacks against journalists in the two
countries. "If Armenia and Azerbaijan wish to be accepted into the community of
European democracies, as they say they do, then both governments must end these
censorship practices and provide solid legal safeguards for an aggressive,
independent news media," Orme said.
Daniloff, director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University in
Boston, met with local editors, reporters, members of media and human rights
groups, and government officials during three months of research in the two
countries last year. His report documents hundreds of instances of censorship
in Azerbaijan, where often whole articles and photographs are cut from
newspapers, and details numerous examples of how Armenian officials use verbal
and sometimes physical pressure to keep journalists in line.
Describing the media climate in the region as "ambiguous and sometimes surreal,"
CPJ urges the governments of the two countries to take immediate steps to end
hostilities and threats to the press that contradict all universally recognized
principles of democracy. It also calls on the United States to stress the
importance of free media in its dealings with both countries. Other
recommendations in the report include:
Repeal of criminal codes limiting criticism of government officials through
various statutes penalizing "false and dishonoring" comments that are used in
both countries to suppress journalistic investigation;
Removal by the Azerbaijan government of all political and military censorship of
the media, which continues in violation of its own constitution and all
international norms of press freedom and free speech;
Investigation by the two governments of all cases of violent attacks against
journalists and media organizations and the punishment of perpetrators of such
acts to dispel the climate of fear inhibiting freedom of expression.