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Ali Hasanov heads President Ilham Aliyev's political department.
Europe's largest association of national broadcasters says a top Azerbaijani official has pledged that his government will probe accusations of abuses against journalists.

Ali Hasanov, who heads President Ilham Aliyev's political department, told the European Broadcast Union (EBU) during a daylong closed meeting on May 2 in Geneva, that the authorities would fully investigate "alleged cases of jailed and mistreated journalists."

A statement from EBU after the meeting said Hasanov also agreed for the government to change legislation "to reduce defamation to a civil, and not a criminal, offense."

Hasanov was speaking as the country prepares to host the Eurovision Song Contest.

Azerbaijan is to host the glitzy televised competition on May 22, 24, and 26.

With reporting by AFP
Newlyweds arrive at a civil marriage-registration office in Dushanbe.
KHATLON, Tajikistan -- Six sets of Tajik parents have gone on trial for forcing their underage daughters into marriage.

Local officials in the southern Khatlon Province said the criminal cases against the parents were launched amid what they called a "worrying rise in early marriages."

If found guilty, the parents would face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

In Tajikistan, the legal age for marriage is 18.

Official divorce rates are high in Tajikistan, and according to Khatlon officials at least 50 percent of marriages end in break-up.

The authorities link the high divorce rate -- especially among young couples -- to early marriages.

They say the ongoing trial should serve as a "warning" to other parents who consider forcing their underage daughters into marriage.

Local Islamic leaders in the predominantly Muslim country say they agree with the authorities' campaign.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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