Legal analysis of articles published in various newspapers within the framework of monitoring of Azerbaijani press


November 2007


Lawyer Alesker Mamedli,

Mass media rights expert

Legal analysis of hundreds of articles selected among those published in the newspapers in November 2007 has been made. Presence or absence of perspective of court examination from viewpoint of defamation has been investigated. Considering a wide sense of freedom of speech and press and despite that many articles could cause problems in the current judicial practice in Azerbaijan, we have selected 35 articles, which contain blatant violations of law. These articles have been selected from the following newspapers:

  1. Ideal - 6 articles
  2. Ses (Voice) - 6 articles
  3. Bizim Yol (Our Path) - 5 articles
  4. Hural - 4 articles
  5. Olaylar (Events) - 3 articles
  6. Azerbaijan - 3 articles
  7. Parallels - 2 articles
  8. Caspian - 1 article
  9. Halg (People’s Newspaper) - 1 article
  10. Merkez (Centre) - 1 article
  11. İki Sahil (Two Coasts) - 1 article
  12. New Azerbaijan - 1 article
  13. Rating - 1 article
  14. 24 Hours -1 article
  15. Alternative -1 article

From viewpoint of Criminal Law

23 of 35 examined articles contain direct defamation. They could be interpreted as violation of clauses 147.1 and 147.2 (libel) and 148 (insult) of currently in force Azerbaijan Criminal Code. Authors of the articles knew that their goal is to insult honor and dignity and discredit the person they were writing about, they also knew that they are writing a lie, but nevertheless, they blackened and caused damage to these people’s reputation.

These articles have been published in the following newspapers:

  1. Bizim Yol - 5
  2. Hural – 4
  3. Ideal -3
  4. Ses -3
  5. Olaylar -3
  6. Paralel -2
  7. Azerbaijan – 1
  8. İki Sahil -1
  9. Merkez -1
  10. Alternative -1
  11. Yeni Azerbaijan -1

From viewpoint of Civil Law

12 of 35 articles contain expressions, which do not envisage criminal responsibility, but are contrary to the Civil Law, law on media and interests of some people.

Such articles were published in the following articles:

  1. Ideal -3
  2. Ses -3
  3. Azerbaijan -2
  4. Halg -1
  5. Rating - 1
  6. Caspian -1
  7. 24 Hours -1

These articles contain biased, partial, ill-intentioned, non-objective, non-balanced, humiliating and false expressions. Journalism ethics has been violated and insulting expressions have been used.

This is a blatant violation of Constitutional clause 32 on citizens’ right to security and non-interference into private life, principle “none of circumstances gives grounds for humiliation of person’s dignity” guaranteed by clause 46 of the Constitution and provision “nobody could be regarded as guilty without court decision” envisaged by clause 63 of the Constitution.

This is also a blatant violation of the provision “Mass media cannot be used to publish rumors insulting citizens’ honor and dignity, ill-intentioned, false and slanderous articles, as well as for illegal actions and abuses” envisaged by clause No 10 of the law on mass media.

In this case the victim has the right to use possibility to protect his or her own honor, dignity and business reputation provided by the clause 23 of Civil Code. Clause 23 of Civil Code enables “natural persons to judicially demand refutation of information defaming their dignity or business reputation and violating secret of their private life or security. This rule is also applied in case if during incomplete publishing, the facts insult honor, dignity and business reputation of a person. Honor and dignity of natural person could be protected by the interested persons after his or her death.”

If information defaming honor, dignity or business reputation of a natural person and infringes on private life is disseminated in mass media, they must be refuted in the same mass media.

In 35 of 35 newspaper articles analyzed from the viewpoint of law, including Criminal Law (23 facts), victims have possibility to take legal actions to protect their honor, dignity or business reputation provided by the Clause 23 of Civil Code.

Although 23 above-mentioned articles could be tried from the viewpoint of Criminal Law, people and organizations, which rights have been violated in each of these articles, also could take legal actions from the viewpoint of Civil Law.

Because in addition to people’s right to their security provided by Clause 32 of Constitution, non-interference into private life guaranteed by the principle “none of circumstances gives grounds for insult of people’s dignity” of Clause 46 of the Constitution and provision “nobody could be regarded as guilty without court decision” envisaged by Clause 63 of the Constitution have been blatantly violated.

All articles containing defamation is a blatant violation of provision “mass media must not be used to publish rumors insulting honor and dignity, false, ill-intention and slanderous articles as well as for illegal actions and abuses” envisaged by the Clause 10 of law on mass media. According to the article 60 of law on mass media, civil, administrative, criminal and other responsibility is instituted in case of infringement on citizens’ private life and violation of legislation.

From Professional Ethics Viewpoint

Each of 35 analyzed articles violated 3 of 4 principles envisaged by the “Rules of Professional Ethics of Azerbaijani Journalists” adopted at the constituent congress of Press Council established on March 15, 2003.

Rule “To serve to truth, reliability and objectivity” envisaged by the 1st principle of “Rules of Professional Ethics of Azerbaijani Journalists”, rule “respectful attitude towards source of information” envisaged by 2nd principle, rule “protection of honor and dignity and inviolability of private life” envisaged by the 3rd principle have been violated.