Vienna, 4 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it is alarmed over the harassment of independent Azerbaijani newspapers by authorities. OSCE media representative Freimut Duve said today that authorities are harassing independent newspapers by bringing defamation suits against them.
Duve said the independent daily newspaper "Yeni Musavat" had to face 13 lawsuits brought against it by the authorities, lawsuits which could be used to close down the newspaper, to confiscate its property, and to bring criminal cases against its employees. Duve said the newspaper has been fined $100,000 in total.
Raug Arifoglu, the editor of "Yeni Musavat," staged a hunger strike last month because he believes authorities are using bogus lawsuits against his newspaper to try to close it down.
Duve said he is concerned that the authorities in Azerbaijan, an OSCE member that is committed to democratic values, appear to be reluctant to take measures to change an unsatisfactory media situation in the country.