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AZERBAIJANI MPS LISTEN TO CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS' CRITICISMS AT OSCE SPECAIL HEARING
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Within the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Baku on July 29 a special hearing was held on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The moderator of the hearing was chairman of the OSCE PA Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Portuguese parliamentarian Isabel Santos. She noted that this meeting is important for the Assembly. "The participation of civil society is important in all aspects of the OSCE and to this end the Parliamentary Assembly listens to the views of non-governmental organizations," said Santos. At the meeting three reports were presented. Programme manager of Danish organization International Media Support (IMS) Gulnara Akhundova reported on the problems of civil society. She expressed satisfaction that "the Parliament finally realized the importance of civil society and did not cancel the event and even provided an interpreter." She reminded that a month ago the same Fairmont hotel, where the special hearing was held, denied venue for the NGO event with participation of the PACE deputies. She expressed concern over the future of civil society in Azerbaijan. "Most of my partners can no longer work. The government refuses to register grants received by them. Against a number of local and foreign NGOs, including IMS, criminal cases have been opened. The investigative journalist Aynur Imranova could not get a small grant provided to her by our organization, because law enforcement authorities arrested her personal bank account," Akhundova noted. She also pointed to imprisonment of the leaders of three NGOs. Akhundova further stated that the Ministry of Justice refuses to register IMS grant awarded to the Azerbaijani NGO Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS). The Director of IRFS, Emin Huseynov focused attention on the problems with freedom of expression. He informed about the imprisonment of 10 journalists for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Huseynov said that over the past 10 years two journalists, Elmar Huseynov and Rafig Taghi, were killed in Azerbaijan and these crimes have not yet been solved. He said that all of the national TV channels are state-controlled. According to him, for its survival independent media needs free advertising market, which is limited due to monopolies in the economy. Print media have low circulation and cover only the major cities of Baku and Sumgait. There are only two opposition newspapers left in the country. Independent newspaper Zerkalo suspended its publication due to financial problems last month. With regard to freedom of expression on-line, Huseynov said, from a technical point of view, access to the Internet is not blocked. However, critics of the government are under pressure, and currently there are six bloggers and online activists behind bars which promotes self-censorship. The head of the Society of Legal Protection and Education Rasul Jafarov focused on the issue of political prisoners. According to him, besides journalists, bloggers and human rights activists, youth activists, opposition party members and believers have also become targets of criminal prosecution. Jafarov said that 11 Azerbaijani NGOs have compiled a list, which includes the names of 81 political prisoners, including 19 of them recognized by Amnesty International as "prisoners of conscience." The event was also attended by a number of pro-government NGO representatives. Vice-speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament) Bahar Muradova, the head of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights Rabiyat Aslanova, and MP Azay Guliyev were also in attendance. Unlike previous years, the government critics did not encounter aggression, but faced attempts to rebut what they had said. MP Guliyev said that for the formation of objective information it is also important to invite representatives of the Azerbaijani government. "For the government to listen to criticism, it must be objective," said Guliyev. However, he noted that his Council of State Support to NGOs is always open to dialogue and contributes to solving the problems of concern to civil society. Upon the moderator's warning about the discussion time coming to an end Bahar Muradova requested an extension of the discussion to let other representatives of the civil society in Azerbaijan express their opinion. "I am proud that we have a strong civil society and its representatives can safely express their opinions. But there are also other opinions and they also should be heard," said Muradova.
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Added: 2014-07-01
Category: İfadə azadlığı
Duration: 0:05:54
Video Description: AZERBAIJANI MPS LISTEN TO CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS' CRITICISMS AT OSCE SPECAIL HEARING