Independent journalists and civil society activists continued to be charged and imprisoned with the criminal offences of defamation and hooliganism. The UN Human Rights Council, concluding a Universal Periodic Review of human rights in June, called on Azerbaijan to decriminalize defamation and reverse its ban on foreign radio broadcasters. The UN Human Rights Committee in August urged the government to end direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression.
- In November a court in Baku sentenced two well known youth activists, Emin Abdullayev (blogger name Emin Milli) and Adnan Hajizade, to 30 and 24 months' imprisonment respectively. They had been convicted of hooliganism and inflicting minor bodily harm. The charges were reportedly fabricated to punish their non-violent dissenting views as part of a continued clampdown on government critics.
In the autonomous republic of Naxçivan, an Azerbaijani exclave bordered by Iran and Armenia,the authorities continued to harass and obstruct the work of journalists
- In January Hakimeldosu Mehdiyev, Elman Abbasov and Mehman Mehdiyev, correspondents of the NGO Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, and Malahat Nasibova, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, were reportedly attacked and prevented from filming by local authorities while investigating reports of police abuse in Heydarabad village. Hakimeldosu Mehdiyev said he was beaten by local police, then forced into his car and expelled from the village.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders remained under pressure. New regulations for NGOs came into effect in September introducing unspecified financial reporting obligations and a requirement for foreign NGOs to obtain authorization from the Ministry of Justice in order to operate in Azerbaijan.
- In March a defamation suit against human rights activist Leila Yunus was withdrawn by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. She had been charged with criminal libel in December 2008 after reporting allegations of human rights abuses made in the course of a public criminal trial she was monitoring. The authorities failed to conduct a prompt, thorough or impartial investigation into the death in prison, apparently following medical neglect, of a seriously ill human rights defender.
- In August, Novruzali Mammadov, a 67-year-old Talysh minority activist, died in a prison hospital. He had been serving a 10-year prison sentence for treason after a trial in June 2008 that was reportedly unfair and politically motivated because of his activities in promoting the Talysh language and culture. A thorough investigation into his death, including into whether he had been denied necessary medical treatment, was not carried out.