The Azerbaijani Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Baku Court of Appeal to punish a journalist with a fine of up to 1,000 AZN (589 USD) for “defamation" on her report on the presidential election frauds.
The Supreme Court decision came after Sevinj Vagifgizi appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which ruled last November that the journalist humiliated Elmira Alandarova, the deputy director of a Baku school, reporting that she was directly involved in the voting fraud committed in the snap presidential election held on 11 April 2018.
Finding Vagifgizi guilty, the court ruled on 22 June that the journalist had to pay 1,000 AZN (589 USD) in compensation to Alandarova and that Meydan TV, where the content was published, should apologize.
Alandarova claims the journalist slandered her and damaged her reputation by posting the video news material on the newspaper Azadlig's website, as well as on Meydan TV, under the title "Deputy Director Controls Carousel."
Carousel voting is a method of vote rigging in elections often used in Russia and in other post-Soviet countries. Fraudsters go from one polling station to another, casting their vote multiple times.
In the disputed
, Vagifgizi spots Alandarova denying her role in the falsification of the election process. In the video, Alandarova is seen hurrying away a group of women brought to the polling station under her supervision to help throw a pile of ballot papers into the boxes in a bid to help President Ilham Aliyev win the snap election.
School principles and teachers are widely used in the falsification of elections in many post-Soviet countries, including in Azerbaijan.
Aliyev secured a landslide victory in the snap presidential election, receiving 86 per cent of the vote. Turnout was 74.5 per cent, according to the statement of the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Vagifgizi considers the court ruling unfair. The journalist sees the decision as a judicial defense of those who falsified the presidential election two years ago.
“I was hindered from filming the carousel voting at that specific poll station. The person who claimed to be the deputy director brought teachers with her. She was not a member of the election commission. In this case, she had no right to enter the station. The law prohibits it. But when asked, she said that she did not enter the station, but instead she was looking after the school garden on the instructions of the school director,” Vagifgizi told Meydan TV.
“I also said in court that she was not a gardener, but a deputy director and her job was not to look after the garden or secure the school,” she added.
The judge also agreed at the hearing that the security of the school is the responsibility of the security service offices rather than of the deputy director.
The journalist prepares to appeal the decision with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).