Eynulla Fatullayev (Azerbaijani: Eynulla Fətullayev) (born 25 September 1976, Baku) is an Azerbaijani journalist and editor-in-chief of the independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan andAzeri-language daily Gündəlik Azərbaycan newspapers. He has been persecuted and imprisoned in Azerbaijan for his criticism of government’s policies and for his alleged publications that said theKhojaly massacre was committed by Azerbaijanis against other Azerbaijanis and not by Armenians. Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Azerbaijani authorities for increasing violations of press freedom which highlights the poor record of human rights in Azerbaijan.
Editor of Realny Azerbaijan and Gündəlik Azərbaycan
Eynulla Fatullayev was notable for his publications in the newspapers in which he is editor-in-chief. His publications were often critical of the Azerbaijani government and its policies. He criticises the government for violating press freedom and its violation of human rights in Azerbaijan. He has also been criticised for his article about the 2003 Azerbaijani elections which were accused of being frauded.
Fatullayev has a history of threats ranging from threats to become persecuted, death threats, being beaten and even having family members kidnapped in Azerbaijan. On July 26, 2004, he was severely beaten with blows to the head on a street in Baku for his articles critical of the government. Eynulla Fatullayev was also called to face a fine of 25,000 Euros and to be jailed for “insulting the name and dignity” of a deputy in the ruling party, Siyavush Novruzov.
In early August 2006, Minister Usubov filed three criminal defamation suits against Eynulla Fatullayev in response to articles titled “The revenge of the antibiotic,” “The failure of the antibiotic,” and “The antibiotic and journalists,” published in July and August, which alleged ties between the Interior Ministry official Ramil Usubov and Haji Mammadov, a former Interior Ministry official who was on trial for murder and kidnapping. On September 26, 2006, Judge Malakhat Abdulmanafova of the Yasamal District Court in Baku convicted Fatullayev of criminal libel and insult and sentenced him to a conditional two-year prison term, ordered him to publish a retraction, and pay a fine of US$11,300 in moral damages to Usubov. Fatullayev suspects this was in retaliation to his critical publications against the Interior Ministry.
On October 1, 2006, Eynulla Fatullayev was forced to suspend publication of both papers after his father was kidnapped. The kidnappers threatened to kill Fatullayev, as well as his father, if Fatullayev continued to publish the papers. The kidnapping had been preceded by numerous phone threats against Fatullayev and his family. Fatullayev told Human Rights Watch:
Starting on September 27, I personally, my family, and the paper’s commercial director got frequent phone calls warning us to stop writing critical articles against the Interior MinisterRamil Usubov, or they were going to kill me like Elmar Husseinov [investigative journalist, murdered on March 2, 2005]… They called my mother and threatened to murder the entire family if I did not stop writing…. On September 31, several unidentified, armed people kidnapped my father, blindfolded him, and took him to some kind of a country house. I received a phone call demanding that I stop publication of my newspapers or I would loose (sic) my father… The next morning I announced the closure of the papers. Only then my father was released.
The “Khojaly Massacre” allegations
On March 6, 2007, Nizami Bahmanov, head of Azerbaijani community of Karabakh, complained that Eynulla Fatullayev had, in an interview published on a website, given “false information” that theKhojaly massacre had been committed by the Azerbaijani army and not by Armenians. Fatullayev said he did not hold an interview with the website and called it propaganda against him. On March 1, 2007, 70-80 people had held a protest outside the editorial office of Fatullayev and raised posters that accused him of being a Dashnak (Armenian) agent and calling for Fatullayev’s deprivation of citizenship. After the reading the resolution, the participants threw eggs at the editorial office which broke two windows. The police suppressed the protest. On May 31, 2007, the Azerbaijani Union of War Veterans expressed its disapproval against Fatullayev’s article about the Khojaly massacre.
Fatullayev was charged with slandering the army and eventually jailed for eight and a half years. Amnesty International described the case as “trumped up charges after being critical of the government”.