Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Azerbaijan to quash last week’s conviction against reporter Tezehan Miralamli, calling him the "latest victim" of the government’s practice of fabricating cases against critical journalists.
"What with arrests, physical attacks and jailing family members, the authorities have been harassing Tezehan Miralamli for eight years for his reporting and his political views," Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on June 25.
A court in Baku on June 19 found Miralamli, who works for Azerbaijan's only remaining opposition newspaper, Azadlig, guilty of "hooliganism" for hitting what RSF described as "an alleged blogger who was clearly used by the authorities" during an altercation in February.
Miralamli was sentenced to wear an electronic bracelet and stay at home every night from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the next 12 months.
He said the restrictions imposed on him would obstruct his reporting by preventing him from covering night-time events or events outside the capital.
Cavelier asked the Azerbaijani judicial system to drop the charges against Miralamli and urged the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, to "condemn the use of trumped-up charges" against journalists critical of the government.
She also said that the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers should "condition Azerbaijan's participation in its institutions on respect for its obligations and undertakings."
In 2015 and 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Azerbaijan in two cases involving Miralamli that were not directly linked to his journalistic activities.
In April this year, the reporter was detained by the police for several hours after interviewing the head of the opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli.
Azerbaijan ranks 168th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The country's leading critical media outlets have been silenced or have had to relocate abroad, the main independent websites are blocked, and at least five journalists are currently in behind bars, according to RSF.
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