The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the police harrasment of Radio Liberty reporter Nushaba Fatullayeva and assesses the harrassment as a restriction of her journalistic activities and violation of freedom of expression.
Specifically, today’s Baku Grave Crimes Court was hosting a trial to read out the sentences against the Azerbaijan Islamic Party leader Movsum Samadov, his brother-in-law Firdovsi Mammadrzayev, his cousin Dayanat Samadov, deputy chairman of the party Vagif Abdullayev, the chairman of party’s Astara branch Rufulla Akhundzada, and clergymen Faramiz Abbasov and Zulfugar Mikayilzada. “The police surroudned the court building, and expelled the people from the area. The police and unknown civilians physically abused and humiliated the onlookers. Journalist Fatullayeva was filming the confrontation between supporters of the arrested men and the police, but she was harassed by the police, who seized her camera violently and deleted the records.
IRFS notes that police harassment has become a common trend in Azerbaijan. For example, in recent months, several journalists have been abducted and beaten, some faced physical harassment in front of the courts or protests, and others have even been arrested under trumped-up charges such as the possession of illegal drugs or hooliganism.
IRFS considers this alarming trend the restriction of people’s fundamental right to freedom of expression and an obstruction of journalism in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has undertaken obligations before the Council of Europe, but these police actions make international organizations doubt on existence of democracy in this country.
IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani government to put an end to pressures against journalists and launch sanctions against those who put pressures against them.