French court backs media description of Aliyev as a “dictator”

NOV. 8 (The Conway Bulletin) — A court in France rejected an attempt by Azerbaijan to sue two journalists for defamation for calling Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev a “dictator”.

The two journalists, newsreader Elise Lucet and correspondent Laurent Richard, had been working for the state broadcaster France Televisions when they called Aliyev a dictator as part of the channel’s coverage of a trip to Baku by then-president Francois Hollande in 2015.

Introducing a show called ‘Cash Investigation’, Ms Lucet described Azerbaijan as “a dictatorship, one of the most savage in the world” and, later, Mr Richard, who had been detained during a reporting trip to Azerbaijan in 2014, said that Aliyev was a “dictator”.

The court in Nanterre near Paris threw out the defamation attempt because it said that it contradicted the freedom of the press and that a nation-state cannot sue journalists for reputational damage.

“The freedom of the press law aims to ensure freedom of expression and does not allow a state to prosecute an individual,” French media quoted the court’s chairman as saying.

Azerbaijan’s lawyers have promised to appeal.

During the hearing, the two defendants quoted from the Paris-based lobby group Reporters Without Borders which ranks Azerbaijan at 162nd for its press freedom rankings out of 180 countries. Over the past six or seven years, the authorities in Azerbaijan have cracked down on opposition activists, journalists and human rights lawyer, straining relations with the West. Pres. Aliyev has also been accused of laundering millions of dollars through offshore bank accounts.

In July 2011, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, daughter of Uzbekistan’s then-president Islam Karimov lost a libel case against France’s for calling her a “dictator’s daughter”.


>>This story was first published on Nov. 13 in issue 351 of The Conway Bulletin

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