Rashid Hajili expressed his gratitude for being honored with this prestigious award.

“A country where freedom of speech is suppressed cannot have a positive image in the international community”, said Rashid Hajili. “A Lack of tolerance to criticism means that democratic principles and values do not function in this country.”

The award is given to people who risk their lives and speak out about taboo topics.

Rashid Hajili is the chair of the Media Rights Institute in Azerbaijan, which monitors free expression and works for the protection of journalists and bloggers. In a country with an ever-worsening record on press freedom, Hajili is one of a small group of individuals who defends the rights of journalists and advocates for greater access to information.

He has defended a number of prominent journalists, including imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev. A leading voice in the campaign for media law reform in the country, Hajili is a prolific writer and tireless campaigner, who has drafted legislation on protection of sources and broadcasting freedom.

In December 2009, he worked with the organisation Article 19 on a case in the European Court of Human Rights to decriminalise defamation.

The Media Rights Institute has been operating in Azerbaijan since 2002 and is engaged in legal defense of media representatives subjected to pressure and prosecution for freedom of expression.

Media Rights Institute is a member of the South Caucasus network of Human rights Defenders and a partner organization of the Human Rights House Baku.

Find out more about Index on Censorship: Freedom of Expression Awards 2010.

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Index on Censorship: Freedom of Expression Awards 2010