IRFS seeks answers on police brutality against media

June 4th, 2013

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The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) resolutely condemns violence against journalists by the Baku police during the past few days. IRFS calls on the government to put an end to attacks and physical abuse of journalists.

At least four journalists have received particularly harsh treatment at the hands of law-enforcers while covering peaceful demonstrations in support of Occupy Gezi (the protests that have gripped Turkey since May 27) in Turkey. These journalists are: ANS TV’s Elnara Mammadova and Firuz Aghayev and IRFS’s Rasim Aliyev and Mehman Huseynov.

IRFS’s Rasim Aliyev was subject to the particular police brutality—well-documented by his colleague, Mehman Huseynov. The footage shows Aliyev being violently slammed by policeman.

‘A growing number of attacks on journalists covering riots and demos, and the Baku-based foreign corps’ continued silence on the issue, are drawing concern’, comments IRFS CEO and Chair Emin Huseynov. Reporters should be able to do their work covering demos and protests, so long as they are not breaking laws or interfering with police action, he stressed.

Law-enforcement agencies have a constitutional responsibility not to prevent or obstruct the work of media during public demonstrations, and journalists have a right to expect fair and restrained treatment by the police. The interference in the working of the media is the violation of the right of access to information, guaranteed under Article 50 of the Azerbaijani Constitution (freedom of information) and Article 10 of the European Convention (freedom of expression).  Not the least, impeding professional activities of a journalist creates liability under Article 163 of the Criminal Code.

As the member of the OSCE Azerbaijan has committed to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and has guaranteed to create the conditions whereby journalists are able to work without legal or administrative obstacles[1]. Azerbaijan is committed to “condemn all attacks on and harassment of journalists and will endeavor to hold those directly responsible for such attacks and harassment accountable.”[2] In addition, the ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly clarifies the role of the media.[3]

In its groundbreaking resolution on safety of journalists, the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned in the strongest terms all attacks and violence against journalists, including intimidation and harassment.

The Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media issued a special report in 2007 on how to treat media during public protests. It is available athttp://www.osce.org/fom/25744

IRFS calls on the authorities to carry out full and impartial investigations in order to identify and punish the police officers responsible for these abuses, because impunity just encourages more violence.

IRFS further calls on the Azerbaijani President to give a personal order for investigation of such attacks.

IRFS also calls on the international community, in particular the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to take a stronger stance and exert greater pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to fulfill their international obligations regarding freedom of expression.

 


[1] Copenhagen Meeting Of The Conference On The Human Dimension Of The CSCE (June 1990) (7.8)

 

[2] Towards a Genuine Partnership in a new era (CSCE Summit, Budapest) Chapter VIII, Human Dimension Tolerance and non-discrimination.

 

[3] “Journalists have an important role to play in providing independent coverage of public assemblies. As such, they must be distinguished from participants and be given as much access as possible by the authorities.” Section A ‘Implementing legislation on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly’ (9) p17.