A tweet to freedom

By Max Tucker, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on the South Caucasus and Ukraine

On 24 June Amnesty’s UK section celebrated their 20th annual Media Awards Ceremony, recognizing excellence in human rights journalism. During the event, over 70 leading UK journalists took part in a twitpic action launched on behalf of the winner of the 2009 Special Award for Journalism Under Threat, imprisoned Azerbaijani newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev.

The action targets Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s twitter account, calling on him to release Eynulla, an outspoken journalist who has been imprisoned since 2007 on a series of trumped up charges, including defamation, terrorism and incitement to ethnic hatred.

Even though the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has quashed the charges and called for his release, he remains behind bars on a new conviction for drugs possession brought to dodge the ECtHR ruling. We firmly believe that all the charges against Eynulla have been fabricated to silence his critical reporting of the Azerbaijani government, and that Eynulla is a prisoner of conscience.

By yesterday morning, more than 700 supporters of Amnesty had already joined those 70 journalists calling for Eynulla’s release. There was an immediate twitter responsefrom pro-government supporters in Azerbaijan, who claimed that Amnesty was picking on Azerbaijan and had ignored human rights abuses by pro-Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

In fact, at the time Amnesty produced, among other things, an extensive report on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh which you can see here. Still, this is just the kind of debate we’d like to see more of in Azerbaijan, a country where critical discourse is routinely suppressed.

Yesterday afternoon, Amnesty’s USA section joined in the action, flooding the President’s twitter account with a new wave of calls for Eynulla’s release.

We’re now asking you, our international supporters, to pitch in with your own message to the President of Azerbaijan, at a time when the human rights situation in Azerbaijan is rapidly deteriorating:

Take our twitter photo action – Eynulla Fatullayevi Azad Et!

What to do:

1.    Download our Amnesty placard, or get creative with the message “Eynulla Fatullayevi Azad Et!”, which is  “Free Eynulla Fatullayev!” in Azeri.2.    Take a photo of yourself with the message
3.    Tweet your picture with the following message:
I’m calling on @presidentaz to free wrongly imprisoned journalist #Eynulla Fatullayev in #Azerbaijan
Please keep hashtags so we can find your image and so the message reaches people interested in Azerbaijan.
4.    Send a second message encouraging your followers to take part:
Join me and send your own message urging the release of Eynulla Fatullayev – find out how at http://bit.ly/k5Hd1Y 
5.    If you don’t want to take a photo, please join in and send a tweet to @presidentaz – remember to add both hashtags so we can see it!

Additional links:Azerbaijan: Young activist sentenced on ‘made-up’ charges
Azerbaijan urged to stop targeting peaceful protesters
Amnesty International’s Azerbaijan page