The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to halt a media crackdown.
In a statement issued on March 13, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon reminded Aliyev that Baku had proclaimed that it was committed to democratic reforms.
Simon harshly criticized Azerbaijani authorities for the imprisonment of several independent journalists, including the chief editor of the "Xural" (Parliament) newspaper, Avaz Zeynalli.
Zeynalli was found guilty on March 13 of extorting and accepting a bribe from a former parliament deputy and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Zeynalli insists the case against him was connected with his work as a journalist.
The CPJ statement also criticized Azerbaijani courts for failing to investigate attacks against journalists and ordering independent news outlets to pay large fines in defamation cases.