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ARTICLE 19 calls on government to prove its commitment to free and fair elections

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 3 November 2005 ARTICLE 19 press release:

AZERBAIJAN: 3 DAYS LEFT AS COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION PUT TO THE TEST

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities to prove their declared commitment to free and fair elections through:

* preventing the use of violence against journalists and civilians; and
* creating a favourable environment where media can provide unhindered coverage of the pre-election period and the polling day on 6 November.

ARTICLE 19 notes with alarm the continuing violations of the rights of Azerbaijani citizens to assemble, express themselves and obtain information freely, and the right of the media to report without fear of intimidation or violence during the run-up to the election including:

- repeated violent harassment of journalists covering opposition rallies;
- frequent attacks and forced closure of independent media outlets;
- widespread abuse of state and local resources in favour of pro-government candidates.

In light of the brutal crackdown on protestors and journalists following the 2003 Presidential election, ARTICLE 19 is seriously concerned at the possibility of violent confrontations following Sunday's vote.

With the failure to enforce the rights of the media to report freely and without fear of intimidation, the Azerbaijani authorities are in direct violation of their international obligations.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Government of Azerbaijan to build on their public commitment to freedom of expression and information, and to guarantee the right of the media to report freely on the election, the right of all political parties to access the media, and the right of citizens to receive full information on the electoral process and vote without interference.

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