Azerbaijani authorities should investigate allegations of police brutality against three journalists detained while covering a protest in Baku and allow all members of the press to freely carry out their work, the statement by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
The document states that on February 15, police detained Fatima Movlamli, a reporter for the independent publication Azadliq, Sevinj Sadygova, an employee of the Azel.tv website, and Teymur Karimov, editor-in-chief of the independent YouTube channel Kanal1. They were subjected to severe violence by police officers.
“Authorities must fully investigate allegations of outrageous police mistreatment of journalists and take credible steps to prevent such incidents from happening again,” said Gulnoza Sayeed, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator.
“Journalists from both pro-government and critical media should be able to report freely on demonstrations without fear of arbitrary detention and police brutality,” Sayeed continued.
Police hit Kerimov on the arm and knee as they pushed him into the police car, he told CPJ himself. The officers took him to the 9th police station of the Sabail district of Baku, and after half an hour they released him without charge.
Movlamly and Sadigova were subjected to police pressure when they were put into a car and then in the department.
There, they were accused of filming the administration building, which police say is a protected facility, injured journalists told CPJ. However, according to the journalists, they were detained when the protesters were a few streets away from the presidential administration.
The police officers demanded that the journalists delete their footage and twice knocked Movlamli to the floor and repeatedly kicked her legs and stomach. The officers also repeatedly scolded and insulted Sadygova and Movlamli, calling the latter a “prostitute”.
Movlamli, whose publication in “Azadlyg” has been blocked in Azerbaijan since 2017, regularly writes about government repression of political activists and has been detained more than 10 times, according to media reports.
The police also told the detainees that they did not have the right to act as journalists because they were not included in the centralized register of journalists, the creation of which is established by the new media law that came into force on February 8, 2022.
The police confiscated and subsequently returned one of Sadigova’s mobile phones.
According to her, the police ordered a strip search of journalists in order to seize additional phones. However, the journalists protested and demanded the invitation of their lawyers, after which the police retreated. The officers then took Movlamli and Sadigova to the Baku Main Police Department, where they were released four hours later without charge.
All three journalists told CPJ that they plan to file formal complaints about their treatment by the police. CPJ emailed the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry for comment, but received no response.
According to CPJ research, Sadigova continued to report for Azel.tv after its founder and director, her husband Afgan Sadigov, was convicted and is currently serving a four-year prison sentence in retaliation for his critical reporting.