Azerbaijan

 CountryType of Law 
 
 

Criminal Defamation

The Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan includes the offences of libel and insult.

Libel (Criminal Code Art. 147) is defined as “dissemination, in a public statement, publicly exhibited work of art, through the mass media or a publicly displayed Internet information resource, of knowingly false information discrediting the honour and dignity of a person or damaging his or her reputation”.

The penalty is a fine of 100 to 500 manat (approx. €55 to €275), or by a community service for a term of 240 to 480 hours, or by corrective labour for a term of up to one year, or by imprisonment for a term of up to six months.

According to Art. 147(2), libel becomes punishable by corrective labour for a term of up to two years, or by imprisonment for a term of up to three years when it consists of “accusing [a person] of having committed a serious or especially serious crime”.

Insult (Criminal Code Art. 148) is defined as “deliberate humiliation of the honour and dignity of a person, expressed in an obscene manner in a public statement, publicly exhibited work of art, in mass media or through a publicly displaced Internet information resource”. The penalty for insult is a fine of 300 to 1,000 manat (approx. €167 to €555), or by a community service for a term of 240 to 480 hours, or by corrective labour for a term of up to one year, or by imprisonment for a term of up to six months.

With the most recent amendments to the Criminal Code that entered into force on Nov. 26, 2016, a provision was added to Art. 148 encompassing an act of insult disseminated through Internet under fake user names, profiles or online accounts . According to this amendment, “insult or slander publicly expressed through a publicly displaced Internet information resource under fake user names, profile or online accounts” carries the penalty of a fine of 1,000 to 1,500 manat (approx. €555 to 830), or by a community service for a term of 360 to 480 hours, or by corrective labour for a term of up to two years, or by imprisonment for a term of up to one year.

Criminal Defamation of Public Officials

Criminal Code Art. 289 provides criminal liability for showing disrespect to a court by insulting participants in proceedings. The penalty is a fine of up to 300 manat (approx. €160), community service for 320 to 400 hours or imprisonment for up to six months.

If the act is committed by insulting a judge, the penalty is a fine of 300 to 500 manat (approx. €160 to €175), corrective labour for up to two years or imprisonment for up to six months.

Criminal Defamation of the Head of State

Discrediting or humiliating the honour and dignity of the Head of the Azerbaijani State “in a public statement, publicly exhibited work of art, through the mass media or a publicly displaced Internet information resource” is a crime under Art. 323(1) of the Criminal Code. The penalty is a fine of 500 to 1,000 manat (approx. €275 to €830), or corrective labour for a term of up to two years, or an imprisonment for the same term.

Additionally, Criminal Code Art. 323(1-1) prescribes a fine of 1,000 to 1,500 manat (approx. €555 to €830) or a prison term of up to three years for the commitment of acts envisaged in Art. 323(1) through a publicly displaced Internet information resource under fake user names, profiles or accounts.

Should the acts envisaged in Art. 323(1) consist in accusing the Head of State “of having committed a serious or especially serious crime” the penalty is imprisonment for a term of three to five years (Art. 323(2)).

Note that according to the Criminal Code, the provisions of Art. 323 do not apply to public statements related to critical views about the activities of the Head of Azerbaijani State – the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the policies pursued under his leadership.

Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols

Offence to the state flag or state emblem (Criminal Code Art. 324): Defamatory acts (insult) against the state flag or the state emblem of the Republic of Azerbaijan are punishable by imprisonment for up to one year.

Criminal Defamation of Foreign Heads of State

No provisions.

Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols

No provisions.

Criminal Defamation of the Deceased

No provisions.

There is no specific law related to criminal defamation of the deceased. Note that Criminal Code Arts. 147 and 148 can be applicable if a deceased person’s heirs lodge appeals to protect his/her reputation. Criminal Code Art. 245 prescribes corrective labour or imprisonment for up to five years for offensive acts committed on the grave of a deceased person or on the body of a deceased person.

Criminal Blasphemy

No provisions.

Criminal Statistics

N/A

Criminal Law and Media

Selected cases

In 2010, Ayyub Karimov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Femida 007 was convicted of libelling Interior Minister Ramil Usubov. Karimov was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence. The court further ordered that this salary be reduced by 15 percent during the length of the sentence .

In January 2016, journalist Elnur Maharramli was convicted of defaming Nushiravan Safarov, head of the Baku police’s traffic department. The charges related to an article in August 2015 on the news website AzPolitika. Maharramli was sentenced to 18 months of corrective labour. The court also ordered that 15 percent of his salary be deducted for the length of the sentence .

In February 2015, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was convicted of libelling former opposition activist Elman Hasanov and sentenced to pay a fine of 2,500 manat . The sentence was handed down while Ismayilova was in pretrial detention on an array of charges including tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power. Later in 2015, a court sentenced her to seven-and-a-half years in prison on the various charges. Ismayilova’s supporters described the accusations against her were spurious and said that the charges against Ismayilova came in retribution for her lengthy career unveiling alleged corruption by government officials. Ismayilova was released from prison in May 2015 .

In 2007, the late journalist Eynulla Fatullayev was convicted of defaming the Azerbaijani people and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The charges related to an online article, which Fatullayev denied posting, that blamed Azerbaijan for a 1992 massacre in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh .

Recent Legal Changes

On 14 May 2013, the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted amendments (promulgated by the President of Azerbaijan on 4 June 2013) to Arts. 147 (Libel) and 148 (Insult) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, introducing criminal liability for defamation committed “through a publicly displayed Internet information resource ”. The maximum term of involvement in public works was increased from 240 hours to 480 hours .

On 26 November 2016, the President signed amendments to the Criminal Code that introduced an additional provision under Art. 148(1) encompassing an act of insult disseminated through the Internet under fake user names, profiles or online accounts. According to the amendments, content constituting libel or insult produced from fake profiles or accounts is punishable by a fine of 1,000 to 1,500 manat (approx. €555 to €830), a community service for 360 to 480 hours, corrective labour of up to two years, or imprisonment for up to one year.

The same amendments also affected Art. 323(1) of the Criminal Code, which is concerned with defamation of the Head of the State. According to the amendment, the scope of criminal liability for defamation of the President was also extended to online media by adding “through the mass media or a publicly displaced Internet information resource” under Art. 323(1).

In addition, the new amendment to Art. 323(1-1) imposed a fine of 1,000 to 1,500 manat (approx. €555 to €830) or a prison term of up to three years for defamation of the president through a publicly displaced Internet information resource under fake user names, profiles or accounts.

On 19 September 2012, the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan requested the assistance of the Venice Commission in drafting a Law on Defamation, as part of the National Programme for Action to Raise Effectiveness of Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms and as a result of two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights against Azerbaijan, in which the Court found violations by Azerbaijan of Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Upon the review of the proposed draft law of the Presidential Administration, the Venice Commission concluded that the draft law was insufficiently concerned with the key principles set out by the Court’s case law . On 19 May 2013, preliminary comments and recommendations of the rapporteurs were sent to the authorities of Azerbaijan, who committed themselves, by official letter sent to the Council of Europe on 29 May 2013, to submitting a revised draft law before the end of June 2013; a working meeting was to follow. No revised draft was submitted, however. This was the Government of Azerbaijan’s only attempt toward reforming defamation law.

However, since 2005 the OSCE, in partnership with the local media organisations, has produced several draft laws and held working meetings with the Government of Azerbaijan at various levels. In 2010, the OSCE in Azerbaijan partnered with the Azerbaijani Press Council and presented a new draft law on decriminalisation of defamation , which did not result in an effective law.

Notes and Acknowledgements

Information for Azerbaian was originally collected by IPI as part of a study commissioned by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It is reprinted here with the permission of the OSCE. Last update: March 2017.

The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at info(at)ipi.media.

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