Press Council Chairman Comments on Blogger Mehman Huseynov’s Arrest

March 10th, 2017

Chairman of Press Council, MP Aflatun Amashov expressed his views on IRFS Chairman, blogger Mehman Huseynov’s imprisonment on his Facebook page. Amashov wrote that whatever the reason, a journalist’s arrest is regrettable. “It does not matter why he has been arrested. I believe that imprisonment is a heavy penalty for people related to the profession of journalism one way or another because, in principle, journalists are freer people by nature and are exemplary enough to inculcate into society how to live the life freely. But however heavy I think the penalty is, it cannot be as heavy as undermining the principles of a law-bound state. At the end of the day, journalists, including Mehman Huseynov, are also citizens and should be responsible before the law like all citizens are,” Amashov says.

Sharing his thoughts on Sancaq page editor and blogger Mehman Huseynov’s activity, the Press Council chairman said he did not accept the opinions assessing the journalist’s arrest as a violation of the freedoms of speech and expression. “Mehman Huseynov was producing critical materials. Issuance of a jail sentence for such a person had great potential to lead to other rumours, just as it did. A number of organisations view this incident as a violation of the freedoms of speech and expression. However, this is not the case because there are journalists with a sharper, more creative style than Mehman, and no one says anything to them. On the other hand, those journalists have more relevance to real journalism than Mehman. Everyone is well aware of this fact, but there are details some people simply do not want to acknowledge and these details are associated with political views. The reactions to the court decision on Mehman Huseynov also primarily look like products of political rhetoric. Similarly, there are people who oppose him and do not recognise him as a journalist. It seems as if both positive reactions and the backlash to the journalist’s situation are preconceived. Let me repeat that a journalist’s arrest is not a good thing in general. It is simply unacceptable to attempt to extract political dividends from this issue. Such attempts are a more visible thing to me and it is very sad. In any case, the Press Council is keeping track of this issue,” Amashov notes.

Recall that, earlier, Azerbaijani President’s aide Ali Hasanov also voiced similar opinions while commenting on the requests made to the Azerbaijani government by 24 international organisations that issued a statement on Mehman Huseynov’s arrest calling for them to release the young man.

In the presidential aide’s opinion, it is unacceptable to call the court’s decision into question by politicising Huseynov’s arrest and attributing it to his professional activity.

Note that, the first critical reaction to Mehman Huseynov’s videos at the government level came from the ruling party (New Azerbaijan Party) MP Malahat Ibrahimgizi during a plenary meeting of the parliament on 30 September 2016. Ibrahimgizi complained about the content published on the popular Facebook page Sancaq. According to the MP, the aforementioned page shared biased information about the head of the state. Back then, Mehman Huseynov’s response to the deputy was as follows: “Sancaq is not one of those sell-out television channels or a water tap for you to open and close. In order to close down Sancaq, you would need to cut off the internet entirely.”

Background: Mehman Huseynov was detained in the evening hours on 9 January. He was released after being convicted and fined AZN 200 under Article 535.1 (disobedience to a lawful requirement of the police) of the Administrative Violations Code. Following the hearing, Huseynov told journalists that he was harassed for his professional activities and had been tortured by the police officers.

Following this interview, the Ministry of Internal Affairs filed a petition with the Prosecutor General’s Office noting that Mehman Huseynov had made baseless allegations in his press statements such as his abduction by the police, illegal restriction of his freedom, and his subjection to torture including physical pain and mental suffering in order to deceive the public and to undermine the reputation of the police.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs has filed a petition with the Prosecutor General’s Office of the country to give a legal assessment of Mehman Huseynov’s act of slandering the police by accusing them of a serious crime. Additional information on the results of the investigation will be published,” the Ministry’s statement read.

Mehman Huseynov says he has undergone a medical examination in connection with his harassment and the injuries he sustained. “We filed a complaint with the Baku City Prosecutor’s Office due to the torture inflicted on me, but the prosecutor’s office declined to launch a criminal case in connection to this,” Huseynov added.

Mehman Huseynov is the editor of the popular critical Facebook page Sancaq and the chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.

Mehman Huseynov, the founder and manager of the Facebook page Sancaq, (https://www.facebook.com/Sancaq.biz/?fref=nf) which has 323,000 followers, has recently been producing videos on senior officials’ and parliamentarians’ expensive properties. He has also been making videos on important socio-political processes taking place in the country. Huseynov’s latest video was a street poll on first lady Mehriban Aliyeva’s appointment as first vice president by President Ilham Aliyev. The question he asked the respondents was ‘would you give your wife a post if you were in charge’.

Link to the video: https://www.facebook.com/Sancaq.biz/videos/1410330369037361/?__mref=message_bubble