Originally written by Human Rights Watch.

(Berlin) – At least eight journalists and three human rights defenders are in jail, and freedom of expression is severely limited in Azerbaijan, the host of the upcoming United Nations-sponsored Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper published today. The government should use this opportunity to free imprisoned journalists and activists, decriminalize libel, and end the blanket ban on opposition rallies in the center of the capital, Baku.

The Internet Government Forum is planned for November 6 to 9, 2012.  The annual meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General brings together governments, civil society, and others as equal partners to discuss public policy issues related to the Internet. This year’s theme is the role of Internet governance in promoting development.

“The Internet Governance Forum’s theme recognizes the role Internet technologies play in enabling human development,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. “However, to fully realize this potential, Azerbaijan should protect its citizens’ ability to express themselves online and off without fear of reprisal.”

The 10-page briefing paper describes Azerbaijan’s record of imprisoning journalists, human rights defenders, and political opposition activists, in most cases on bogus criminal charges, in apparent retaliation for their investigative journalism or political activism.

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