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Media Watchdog Condemns Azerbaijan's Jailing Of Bloggers

Adnan Hajizada (left) and Emin Milli
Adnan Hajizada (left) and Emin Milli
Azerbaijan marks National Press Day today, but with three journalists in jail and two bloggers awaiting trial there is perhaps not too much to celebrate.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says a Baku court's rejection of an appeal to release two jailed Azerbaijani bloggers is "unacceptable," RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Clotilde Le Coz, of RSF's Internet Freedom Desk, said the pretrial jailing of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli on charges of hooliganism is "confirmation" of the lack of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

"Those bloggers will be forced to stay in detention for two months for something they didn’t commit, awaiting their trial that they even don’t know the date of," Le Coz said. "They were just writing on the Internet about what is going on in Azerbaijan. What has hooliganism got to do with that?"

Le Coz said that RSF has sent two letters to the Azerbaijani government asking for the journalists to be released but has received no response.

She said it also asked that the public be allowed to attend the hearing on July 20 at the appeals court, but it was held behind closed doors.

Le Coz said RSF will work to make "more and more people aware of [the bloggers'] situation."

She called the bloggers' case "broader...because it shows it can happen to anybody. You don’t have to be a journalist to be threatened by the government or to be put in jail."

Hajizada, a video blogger and member of the OL! opposition movement, was arrested with activist Milli at an Internet cafe in Baku on July 8 and charged with hooliganism.

Rights groups say the charges were fabricated to punish the activists -- who post their work on the social-networking website Facebook -- for their criticism of the government.

Le Coz said that they had become online leaders in Azerbaijan "and that's why they were silenced by the government."