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Azerbaijan Accused Of Media Crackdown

17 January 2005 -- Azeri and international media groups say Azerbaijan's government is suppressing independent media by closing publications, restricting distribution, and jailing journalists.

The International Press Institute and the Azerbaijan Journalists' Confederation made the assessment in a joint statement today.

The groups said Azeri authorities in October unfairly sentenced the editor of a leading opposition newspaper to five years in prison, and a month later arrested an editor believed to be financing the fledgling opposition.

And they said authorities have done little to investigate the beating of a journalist in December.

The deputy head of the presidential administration's political department, Nazim Isayev, denied there are problems with freedom of speech. He said journalists arrested last year were being held on charges unrelated to their activities as journalists.