In recent years, there have been no profound changes in the context of the media environment and the situation of journalists in Azerbaijan. The situation, the environment was already bad, and it remains so.
According to Media expert Khalid Agaliyev, the application of criminal penalties for defamation has recently started to spread again.
On October 11, the Committee on Legal Issues and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) discussed threats to the life and safety of journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
The committee has appointed MP Hannah Bardell from Great Britain as rapporteur to investigate the issue and make a detailed report for PACE within the next two years.
What can the appointment of the new speaker change, what are the expectations from her?
According to Khalid Agaliyev, the practice of arresting journalists on dubious charges has not disappeared in Azerbaijan for many years:
“The new law “On Media”, which is considered one of the most reactionary in Europe, has been adopted, although it has not yet been fully implemented, last year. These developments made it necessary to conduct a special monitoring and investigation at the level of international organizations”.
The expert thinks that appointing a rapporteur is a necessary step in this regard.
As for expectations, Khalid Agaliyev says that the media environment in Azerbaijan has not had a problem-free time:
“It is true that the situation was more favorable during the brief period when the country was a new member of the Council of Europe. There have been appointments of speakers before, but they were not accompanied by fundamental changes. Of course, our expectations are the efficient activity of the speaker, close cooperation of the government, and finally taking steps towards solving the problems – changing the bad legislation and practice. However, this depends on the role of the European Council and the possibilities of influence.”
Deputy Erkin Gadirli, who is a member of PACE’s Legal Matters and Human Rights Committee, told “Voice of America” that he did not agree with having a rapporteur for this matter:
“The protection of journalists is a critical issue. However, the text prepared here is very weak, and does not deal with the long-term problem”.
On October 13, the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe chose another co-rapporteur for Azerbaijan .
Liz Christopher from the Labor Party of Norway was given a 5-year mandate. She will monitor all the shortcomings that will occur in the field of democracy, human rights, corruption, and elections in Azerbaijan.
Before that, the PACE Monitoring Committee’s rapporteur on Azerbaijan was Stefan Shennak.
Regarding threats to the lives and safety of journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, a group of PACE deputies called for the preparation of a draft resolution in the summer session.
Azerbaijan has been a member of PACE since 2001. When the country became a member of PACE, it undertook obligations related to human rights and many other issues. More than 20 years later, the country is still under the agency’s monitoring.