INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

February 4th, 2009
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety resolutely condemns the death threats made against IRFS Nakhchivan regional correspondent Hakimeldostu Mehdiyev and Elman Abbasov and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Nakhchivan correspondents Malahet Nasibova and Ilgar Nasibov, the insulting of these journalists and the beating of H. Mehdiyev.

IRFS also condemns the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic’s leadership and law enforcement officials for allowing such tyranny to take place with impunity.
On 29-30 January, a person who introduced himself as Sadarek resident Malik Aliyev called IRFS Nakhchivan regional correspondent Elman Abbasov and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty & Turan News Agency Nakhchivan correspondent Malahet Nasibova and threatened to kill them. Aliyev also said he would blow up the journalists’ office. The journalists appealed to police about this, however police have taken no action. On 31 January, H. Mehdiyev was preparing a report when he was harassed. He sustained injuries when one man threw an ashtray at him. The ashtray struck him in the face, under his left eye.
IRFS is certain that these incidents are related to the journalists’ professional work, and are quite possibly an attempt by the leadership of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic to silence the journalists. The above-mentioned journalists are constantly providing information about the real situation in Nakhchivan to the rest of Azerbaijan and the international community. Recently, these journalists were instrumental in disseminating information about the injustices and pressure that a whole group of residents of Sadarek’s Heydarabad village faced in late December and early January. It is no coincidence that on 16 January IRFS correspondent H. Mehdiyev, E. Abbasov and M. Mehdiyev, as well as RFERL & Turan News Agency correspondent Malahet Nasibova were attacked in Heydarabad Village while trying to do a follow-up report. Although a formal appeal was immediately made to law enforcement officials about this incident, to this day no one has been held responsible. On the contrary, in the 29 January 2009 edition of “Serg Gapisi” Newspaper, a publication of the Nakhchivan Autnomous Republic’s Supreme Council, in an article signed by the Nakhchivan Republic’s Press Council, it was alleged that IRFS and RFERL correspondents gave inaccurate information regarding incidents in Heydarabad village. The article was an entire page and included slanderous information that violates journalistic ethics and norms.
IRFS calls for an immediate end to the harassment and black PR being conducted against the IRFS and RFERL correspondents in Nakhchivan. IRFS also demands that these journalists’ rights as envisaged in local and international legislation be respected. IRFS notes that Azerbaijan’s freedom of expression and press freedom level, in comparison with the rest of the world, is already embarrassingly low, and events like the recent incidents in Nakhchivan further damage Azerbaijan’s international image. From this perspective, IRFS calls on the government of Azerbaijan to fulfill the international obligations it has undertaken and ensure press and expression freedom in Azerbaijan.