IRFS STATEMENT: TWO JOURNALISTS RECEIVE DEATH THREATS

February 18th, 2008
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety is immensely concerned about the recent death threats that have been against “Nota Bene” Newspaper writer Faramez Allahverdiyev (Novruzoglu).

The threats are extremely explicit, using phrases like “'The murderers of Elmar Huseynov haven't been found yet, yours will not be found either,' and 'We can kidnap your children.’ The latter is particularly disturbing as it is the first time that IRFS has ever heard of threats being made not just against a journalist, but also their family remembers. This represents a serious departure from local traditions, which keep children and women of business disputes.  
Allahverdiyev is currently in the midst of publishing a very sensitive novel entitled “Girls’ Spring Tragedy” piece-by-piece in the newspaper “Nota Bene.” The novel is based actual people and events in Azerbaijan over the past 20 to 30 years, but uses fictitious names for all characters, many of whom currently occupy high-ranking position in Azerbaijan’s government. Allahveridyev said he has a concrete idea of who is behind the threats, but does not want to reveal this name to the press, for fear he will be accused of defamation. Allahverdiyev just got of prison in December 2007, through a presidential pardon. The journalist had been serving a 2.5 year prison sentence since 30 January 2007 for committing libel and defamation against Azerbaijan’s Minister of Interior Ramil Usubov and head of the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora Nazim Ibrahimov.  
In addition to Allahverdiyev, on Saturday IRFS learned that “Show Academiya” Newspaper Chief Editor Vugar Kamiloglu received death threats from popular Azerbaijani singer Adalet Shukurov. Kamiloglu recently appeared on ATV’s show business program “El Ichinda” and criticized the singing voice of Shukurov, who holds the title of “People’s Artist,” as well as another singer, Nura. Kamiloglu also alleged that Shukurov and Nura simply play CDs at their performances and lip sync to them.  
These two incidents are not isolated events. Over the last year death threats against journalists have become rampant. Just at the end of this past January freelance journalist Uzeir Jafarov, a former editor of the now defunct “Gundalik Azerbayjan” received over a thousand threatening phones calls, while the appellate court was reviewing a complaint regarding law enforcement agencies inability to solve the 20 April 2007 attack on him, which left him with serious head trauma.   "Yeni Musavat" Newspaper Nakhchivan correspondent Hakim Eldostu Mehdiyev, "24 Saat" Newspaper Chief Editor Fikret Faramezoglu, imprisoned "Realny Azerbayjan" and "Gundalik Azerbayjan" Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Eynulla Fatullayev and IRFS co-founder, Turan News Agency Correspondent Sarvan Rizvanov (who has moved abroad due to fears for his safety) all received death threats from hidden telephone numbers in 2007. Complaints filed with law enforcement agencies regarding these incidents have all gone unsolved, and according to the information that IRFS has, not a single person has ever been brought to criminal responsibility for making a threat against a mass media representative in Azerbaijan.  
IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies to seriously investigate the threats made against ALL journalists and to solve them, as this is entirely possible and only requires records from Azercell, the mobile phone service provider that has been involved in every single one of these cases. And, in connection with this, IRFS calls for complete cooperation in this matter from Azercell, as well as all mobile and landline service providers in Azerbaijan.  
 İRFS also calls on international organizations to follow this situation closely, and to demand that Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies conduct a thorough and complete investigation into the threats made against all journalists, and to put an end to the impunity for people responsible for threatening, beating, and even murdering journalists in Azerbaijan.