Under Government Pressure, Baku Opposition Paper May Go Under

Under Government Pressure, Baku Opposition Paper May Go Under

17/03/2004, 10:03

BAKU, March 17. Eni Musavat, Azerbaijan’s main opposition newspaper, is on
the verge of going out of business. The paper’s acting editor, Gabil
Abbasoglu, spoke about the situation Monday, a Rosbalt correspondent

Abbasoglu blamed the problem on legal actions brought against the daily by
the government. The authorities, he said, are seeking payment of
approximately USD 30,000 in fines arising from six separate cases and have
blocked the newspaper from otherwise using its day-to-day sales income. All
income from sales of Eni Musavat, handled by three companies, have been
sequestered in special accounts. Abbasoglu called the action ‘arbitrary and
in violation of the law.’

The chief bank account of the newspaper has been under seal since last
August. One result is that the newspaper’s staff now is working without pay.
‘If we were selling 25,000 copies per issue before the presidential election
of 2003, we’re barely at 10,000 today,’ the editor said. Because of the lack
of pay, reporters are beginning to leave, he said.

He said the newspaper has appealed to President Ilkham Aliyev in a statement
noting that the latter’s late father had every opportunity to close the
paper but did not do so. The statement also calls on the head of government
not to deprive the country of a forum for the opposition. ‘We stand ready to
hear out any conditions proposed by the authorities and will work with full
consideration of their views,’ the statement declares.

The publication is seeking help from its distributors, other newspaper
organizations and, most important, the Press Union, the editor said. The
newspaper staff is threatening a hunger strike to call attention to the