IRFS regretfully states that six media representatives, journalists Elmar Huseynov, Alim Kazimly, Novruzali Mamedov, Rafik Tagi, Rasim Aliyev and blogger Mehman Galandarov suffered violent deaths in Azerbaijan over the past 12 years, while in 5 cases serious crimes that resulted in death were completely unpunished.
“Trying and arresting innocent journalists on trumped-up charges, the Azerbaijani authorities at the state level promote and encourage impunity for crimes against journalists,” said Executive Director of IRFS, Emin Huseynov. As a result of this deliberate repressive policy by the authorities, in April of this year, the arrested blogger Mehman Galandarov died a mysterious sudden death, which the authorities presented as a suicide. Not so long ago, in August 2015, Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies refused to ensure the safety of the journalist Rasim Aliyev, chairman of the board of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, a journalist who asked them to protect him from death threats. In early January of this year, law enforcement officers abducted and tortured the well-known anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov and two months later, by a defamation lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the court sentenced him to 2 years in jail for reporting how he was tortured. On the day of Mehman Huseynov’s sentencing on March 3, 2017, another freelance journalist Ilgar Veliyev was detained and tortured for almost a day in the front zone by Azerbaijani members of the armed forces and later was forced to leave Azerbaijan. The high level of impunity and intolerance is increasingly forcing most journalists to censor themselves or to leave Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, today we have to be vigilant when journalists, who have fled from Azerbaijan are detained abroad at the request of Interpol as was recently the case with Fikret Huseynli in Ukraine, and in some cases as with Afghan Mukhtarly, the special services of Azerbaijan kidnapped a journalist in neighboring Georgia illegally delivering him to Azerbaijan where he was tortured and illegally arrested. The latest culmination of intolerance and impunity for crimes against journalists should be attributed to the recent shocking contract murder of the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who investigated the corruption ties between the ruling elite of Azerbaijan and Malta” summed up Emin Huseynov.
IRFS considers the arrests and current imprisonment of the following journalists politically motivated and falsified – Mehman Huseynov, Afgan Mukhtarly, Seymur Hezi, Aziz Orujov, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Fikrat Ibishbeyli, Afgan Sadigov, Elchin Ismayilli, Javid Shiraliyev, Mahbub Zulfugarli, Ziya Asadli, Arshad Ibragimov ; bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustamzade, writers Saday Shakarli and Tofik Hasanov, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibragimov and Bayram Mammadov. Their imprisonment should be looked at as state crimes, and they should all be immediately released.
The IRFS also condemns the authorities of Azerbaijan for initiating the introduction of Internet blocking to prevent live broadcasts on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram by independent media that intended to do live broadcasts on the opposition protests that took place on October 7th and 28th in the capital city of Baku.
IRFS considers any illegal technical, legislative, or administrative limitations by the authorities as an infringement on freedom of speech and a threat to the safety of journalists.
IRFS calls on the authorities to suspend all their criminal activities against journalists and the media, including freeing all arrested media representatives from prisons, putting an end to the blocking of websites of independent local and international media, removing all international travel restrictions on Azerbaijani journalists, and allowing all foreign journalists to enter. This would thereby ensure full freedom of movement for media representatives. We also call on the authorities to stop jamming mobile Internet during opposition protest actions and stop the ubiquitous lowering the speed of cable and wireless Internet on the eve of and after protests. Ensuring the possibility of independent local and international TV radio campaigns functioning in the country, creating conditions for the resumption of the release of independent print media, removing all artificial restrictions on obtaining support from foreign donors in the development of non-commercial telecommunication initiatives, to provide the entire population of Azerbaijan in both cities and regions with broadband Internet access, to ensure the work of the Public TV and radio broadcasting in accordance with international standards and also provide free access to information on the basis of international standards both for the population of Azerbaijan and for the international community.
IRFS calls on UNESCO and the UN to put strict demands on the authorities of Azerbaijan to ensure the safety of journalists, and in case that they fail to fulfill the requirements, as the first sanction on the part of the organization, should be to deprive the first-vice-president of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, of her UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadorship. Aliyeva is responsible for oppressing freedom of speech in the country.
The IRFS also calls upon all the Council of Europe and European Union bodies to take a more rigid approach to the issues of observing the freedom of expression and ensuring the safety of journalists in Azerbaijan in accordance with European standards and to gradually apply the restraining sanctions mechanisms to the most ardent violators in the government of Azerbaijan.
IRFS calls on US and Canadian authorities to begin using the recently emerged legislative capacity to apply sanctions against high-ranking corrupt officials of Azerbaijan responsible for gross violations of fundamental human rights.