April 19th, 2012
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety strongly condemns the vicious assault on five journalists today at Sulutapa settlement, in Binagady district, close to SOCAR-controlled oilfield #4.

SOCAR employees were carrying out demolition work in a residential area, allegedly because the existing housing there is illegal. IRFS/Ayna-Zerkalo journalist IdrakAbbasov was filming the incident when he was brutally beaten by SOCAR security guards and police officers. Abbasovlost consciousness following the beating, and was taken to hospital. He has severe trauma to his right eye. The extent of his head injuries remains unclear.

 Yeni Musavat journalist Gunay Musayeva was with him at the time, and was also assaulted by SOCAR guards, sustaining blows to her stomach and mouth.

When three more journalists – Elnur Mammadov and Qalib Hasanov from IRFS and Esmira Javadova from Azadliq/Radio Liberty – arrived by taxi, they were confronted by a group of SOCAR security officers who smashed the windscreen and forced them out. They were verbally insulted and pushed around. Guards attempted to confiscate Javadova's camera.

 IRFS is appalled and saddened by this new wave of brutality against the independent press committed by representatives of the State Oil Company and State police officers. Today’s events come less than 24 hours after President Ilham Aliyev’s speech guaranteeing freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. The contrast between his public assurances and the brutal events today is deeply troubling, demonstrating a lack of tolerance for free media on the part of the Azerbaijani government.

 IRFS once again calls upon the Azerbaijani government to protect the right to freedom of expression. What happened today in Sulutapa is a direct violation of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in absolute contravention to what Azerbaijan has undertaken to do before the UN and Council of Europe.