The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov’s threats against BBC and local journalists, and considers his speech pressure on journalists and on freedom of expression in general.
BBC Newsnight reported that Azerbaijani Boxing Federation president Kamaladdin Heydarov transferred millions of dollars to the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) in return for a guarantee that Azerbaijani fighters will win two boxing gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has launched an investigation into the issue, and BBC has promised to be helpful in the investigation. A BBC official said that they are ready to submit the evidence regarding the boxing scandal to the committee. The Guardian newspaper has also reported on the bribery uncovered by Newsnight.
In an interview to local journalists ahead of the Boxing World Championships hosted by Baku, Haydarov, threatened that, “BBC will account for it, the local editors should keep clever, it cannot continue this way”.
IRFS notes that the threats of Kamaladdin Heydarov, who is currently involved in a corruption scandal, and others government figures against journalists who are carrying out their professional duties, are illegal and assessed his speech as an attempt to impede the professional work of journalists.
IRFS states that a high ranking government officials’ threatening a foreign TV channel and local journalists violates Article 47 (freedom of expression and speech) of Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
IRFS demands that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who also leads the National Olympic Committee, force Kamaladdin Heydarov to apologize to BBC and local journalists, and resign from his positions at the Azerbaijan Boxing Federation and other governmental organizations.
IRFS calls on the International Olympic Committee and AIBA to launch an objective investigation into this case and impose sanctions on the persons attempting to buy (and sell) sport matches.