The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today expressed serious concern over the sentence handed down to the editor of the Bastainfo.com online platform, Mustafa Hajibeyli, in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Yesterday, the Baku Court on Grave Crimes imposed a five-and-a-half-year conditional sentence on Hajibeyli, with a two-year probation period, on charges of public calls against the state, excess of authority and forgery. Reportedly, the charges relate to allegations that Bastainfo.com disseminated false and illegal information regarding a power outage and attack on the Head of the city of Ganja in 2018, an issue which the Representative raised in his earlier interventions with the authorities.
“This court decision convicting Mustafa Hajibeyli marks a worrying trend for freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Azerbaijan. I call on the authorities to carefully review the case on appeal, and allow the journalist to work unimpeded in full compliance with the OSCE”s media freedom commitments,” Désir said.
The Representative noted reports of various irregularities during the court”s proceedings, including with regard to the grounds and relevance of bringing such grave charges against the editor.
Désir also reiterated his concern regarding the case of the editor of the online platform Criminalaz.com, Anar Mammadov, who is facing trial on similar charges.
“Any restrictions on the right to freedom of expression should be narrowly applied and in full compliance with the principles of rule of law, necessity and proportionality. Media workers should not be targeted in retaliation for their work,” the Representative concluded.