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OSCE Official Meets With Jailed Azerbaijani Journalist

Jailed journalist Eynulla Fatullayev
Jailed journalist Eynulla Fatullayev
BAKU -- The media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has visited Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in the prison where he is serving a sentence for illegal drug possession, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Dunja Mijatovic paid the visit on May 10, a day ahead of a talk she was scheduled to give at a conference devoted to the decriminalization of defamation.

Fatullayev was arrested in 2007 on charges of tax evasion, instigation of terror, and defamation. He was sentenced in 2007 to 8 1/2 years in jail on multiple charges, which he says were fabricated in retaliation for his published articles criticizing the authorities.

In April 2010, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Fatullayev should be released and paid 25,000 euros compensation as the Azerbaijani government had violated his rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial.

Despite the ECHR ruling, authorities later convicted him on drug charges and extended his prison term.

Azerbaijan is the only South Caucasus state that regards defamation as a criminal offense. Media and human rights activists have called for the punishment of defamation to be excluded from the criminal code.

Azerbaijan Press Council Chairman Aflatun Amashov recently told journalists that a draft law on defamation has been submitted to parliament and is likely to be adopted soon.

Rashad Majid, editor in chief of "Newspaper 525," told RFE/RL on May 9 that the law should have been adopted at least three or four years ago.

"The issue of defamation is not very pressing for newspapers now. Those who want to insult someone use the virtual world or pseudonyms [when they write their articles]," he said.

Read more in Azeri here