INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

May 4th, 2011
 The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety condemns the treatment of journalists in front of the Sumgayit City Court, and assesses it as an interference with journalists’ professional work.

An incident broke out between the police and the youths who were protesting against the court decision that sentenced Savalanli to 2.5 years in jail.  The journalists faced harrassment by plain clothed agents while trying to cover this incident and other developments after the trial. Radio Liberty employee Esmira Javadova, Turan Information Agency employee Parvana Bayramova and IRFS employees Abulfat Namazov and Fargana Novruzova encountered physical assaults from undercover agents. The journalists were prevented from shooting photo and video, and were violently expelled from the area. The agents seized the camera of Radio Liberty employee Esmira Javadova and deleted all her video and photos.  The undercover agents also attempted to seize the cameras of Namazov and Novruzova.
IRFS states that this incident demonstrates once again the real state of freedom of press in Azerbaijan and if this continues, Azerbaijan will remain on the list of countries without freedom of press. By interfering with the operation of journalists, the authorities are defying Azerbaijan’s obligations before international organizations, continuing to damage the image of Azerbaijan, which is not encouraging.
The interference with journalists’ professional work is forbidden by both Azerbaijani legislation and international legal documents. This interference is a direct violation of the journalists’ right to obtain, collect and disseminate information.
IRFS demands the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately punish the persons who interfered with the professional work of journalists and to take measures to prevent such incidents in future. IRFS calls on the international community to push demand Azerbaijan abide by the freedom of press obligations it has undertaken before international organizations.