July 20th, 2010

Today, 20 July, the Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety condemns the subjection of a group of journalists to harassment by the guards of the Presidential Administration and assesses this as pressure against mass media representatives.

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety and Turan Information Agency employees Javid Gurbanov and Mehman Huseynov, Radio Liberty correspondent Abbas Atilay, and Bizim Yol newspaper correspondent Haji Zeynalov were detained by the guards when they were taking pictures and filming the protest held by Sabirabad region residents who suffered losses due to the flooding of the Kur River. The journalists were taken to the administrative building of the Presidential Administration where they were told that they were not authorized to record the premises of the Presidential Administration.  All the journalists' footage was checked. Anything that showed the Presidential Administration’s building was erased. Then the journalists were freed.


IRFS declares that although the filming of administrative building of the Presidential Administration is not banned by any legal document, detaining journalists and erasing their footage is interpreted as hindering the journalists` legal work.


IRFS emphasizes that no warning sign against filming the premises of the Presidential Administration has been erected in the area.


IRFS notes that journalists have been repeatedly detained for filming the Presidential Administration’s building. IRFS addressed an information inquiry three months ago to the Presidential Administration to request information regarding laws regulating the ban of filming the building, but no official response was given.


In addition, IRFS emphasizes that in many democratic countries, filming the building of the Presidential Administration is not restricted, and media representatives, citizens, and even tourists can take pictures of these buildings.


IRFS declares that the hindrance of the journalists’ filming and recording of events is a violation of their rights to freely gather and distribute information.


In this case, the rights of journalists, as stipulated in local and international legal acts like Article 50 of Azerbaijan’s Constitution (Freedom of Expression), Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Expression), and Article 163 of Azerbaijan Criminal Code (interference in the professional work of journalist), were violated.


IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani government and the Presidential Administration to respect international and local laws, and to create conditions for journalists to carry out their professional work.