Khural newspaper’s editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli has reportedly been subjected to physical pressure of police. The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) was told this by A.Zeynalli.

Zeynalli said that a police officer in plainclothes used violence against him during the protest action held in front of the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan on 12 March. “As the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Nizami Hasanli and I were approaching the embassy, we saw that citizens wanting to hold action were being pushed into a car and taken by police who had clubs their hands,” said A. Zeynalli. “We wanted to know what was happening when a man in plainclothes came towards us and said in Russian, ‘Away with you!’ and hit me on my head. Then police removed us from the territory.” A.Zeynalli noted that he found out that this person was the deputy chairman of the Nasimi District Police Office whose name was Suleyman. “I approached him, presented myself and asked who he was and why he beat me. Using insulting expressions, he told me that he likened me to MP Sabir Rustamkhanli, the Chairman of Citizens’ Solidarity Party, and therefore beat me. The deputy chairman took a softer line after he learned that I am a journalist and then denied the charges regarding beating me,” added Khural newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who stated that he appealed to Internal Affairs Minister Ramil Usubov and Baku City Chief Police Office Head Rafig Abbasov regarding the physical harassment against him.

IRFS tried to contact Nasimi District Police Office Chief Suleyman Nemetov regarding this issue, but we were told by the office on duty that he was not at work. The assistant on duty Tagiyev said that he did not have any clue about the incident and advised to appeal to the Press Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Ministry of Internal Affairs Press Service Department Head Ehsan Zahidov told IRFS that he did not have any information regarding the physical pressure against the journalist. “The action in question was unsanctioned and therefore it is the duty of police to prevent the action and to take relevant steps for restoring public order,” said E.Zahidov. “Police had the right to take adequate steps and distance the journalist from the territory like other participants if the editor-in-chief did not have a journalist vest on and if he did not obey.”

To the question “Does the failure to wear journalist vest give the police right to use force?” the Ministry of Internal Affairs said: “If a journalist is not in special clothes, it means he does not differ from other action participants. In this case, if a journalist does not obey the steps taken by the police to restore the order, the police have the right to use adequate force in Azerbaijan like in the entire world.”

The unsanctioned action in front of Turkish embassy on 12 March was intended to support Turkey.  On 5 March the Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives ratified the draft law to recognize the incidents in the Ottoman Emperor in 1915 as “Armenian genocide”.

Khural newspaper has been operating since October 2002 and published as weekly newspaper.

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