Defamation remains a criminal offence in Azerbaijan, carrying a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment. Although criminal defamation provisions no longer lead to prison sentences as frequently as in previous years, they are still in use.
The mere existence of these provisions has a serious chilling effect on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, instilling fear among journalists and contributing to the widespread self-censorship in the country. Their abolishment would be a welcome step in the right direction.
Civil defamation provisions are more frequently used, and are often misused to hamstring the ability of independent and media outlets to operate. Many civil defamation cases are filed by public officials.
The IPGA is campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation and for civil defamation provisions to be used in line with international standards.
Photo (c) S Falkow