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The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) announced the opening of its new office, the Media and Human Rights Centre, in Tbilisi, as part of a major drive to increase the impact of its human rights work in Azerbaijan.
The establishment of an IRFS office in Georgia marks a new stage in the organisation’s work, after it was illegally shut down in Baku in 2014. The new national office in Tbilisi will act as the main base for IRFS’s research, advocacy, and communications work on free expression in Azerbaijan.
“Our purpose in setting up this media centre is to provide a meeting place for journalists and human rights defenders from Azerbaijan. We had a similar office in Baku which was shut by the government during the anti-NGO crackdown in 2014. This centre is intended for individuals who have been prevented from working in Azerbaijan’, said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov.
“The environment in which Azerbaijani media and human rights defenders operate is increasingly hostile. Those who stand up for human rights often pay a high price for their courage. I am glad that the fight for press freedom and human rights continues against the odds, and this new centre is the best evidence of that”, said Gulnara Akhundova of International Media Support.
US Ambassador to Georgia Mr. Ian. C. Kelly; representatives of other diplomatic corps including Estonia, EU, Netherlands, and the UK; local and international journalists; Georgian civil society members; and Azerbaijani activists have all visited.
Hafiz Babali, an investigative journalist from Azerbaijan who has recently been elected as a deputy chairman of the IRFS board, emphasised that IRFS is continuing its work despite all the challenges it has faced. “Having a permanent office in Tbilisi will enable us to campaign harder for justice and better rights for all in Azerbaijan.”