INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS` FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

April 18th, 2011
The Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the detention of the Swedish journalists on 17 April. IRFS deems this a further act of aggression against freedom of expression. 

Three employees from the Swedish state-owned "Channel 1", Charlie Laprevote, My Rohwedder Street, and Charlotte Wijkström were arrested in Sahil Park while they were covering the Public Chamber opposition party protest yesterday. Undercover agents took the journalists to Sabail District Police Department # 39. Following this, they were taken to the Anti Illegal Immigration Department of the Interior Ministry's Passport Registration and Migration Office. The Press Council of Azerbaijan stated that the foreign journalists should have obtained accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
IRFS believes that this action constitutes direct interference with the professional media work of the journalists, and deems this inadmissible. Under local and international law, interference with the professional work of press outlets – especially of journalists who had obtained the correct visa to carry out their work in Azerbaijan- is illegal. This incident violates Article 10 (freedom of expression) of European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. That there exists a clause that implies the necessity of accreditation does not mean that the clause is fair. In fact, this Article violates the international legislation to which Azerbaijan is a signatory, and which have been ratified by Parliament.
IRFS states that interference in the professional work of international journalists, which culminated in their arrest, has further damaged Azerbaijan’s international reputation. This step contradicts the freedom of speech and expression obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan before several international organizations, including the Council of Europe.
IRFS believes that Press Council’s support for the detention of journalists is unacceptable, and condemns the Council this support. IRFS states that the Council's behaviour here proves that it is operating under governmental control.
IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities to end this harassment and to create favorable conditions for press workers to carry out their professional duties. IRFS also calls upon the government to release the arrested journalists.
IRFS calls upon the international community to condemn this behaviour and to make efforts to prevent future incidents of this type.