Statement of IRFS on Politically Motivated Detention of Well-known Azerbaijani Journalist and Head of Turan News Agency Mehman Aliyev

August 25, 2017

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the authorities of Azerbaijan for arresting the head of Turan independent news agency Mehman Aliyev. The organization calls for his immediate release and an end to the pressure on Turan and its other employees.

Mehman Aliyev, one of the most prominent and respected journalists in Azerbaijan yesterday (24-08-2017), was taken into custody as a defendant on charges of non-payment of taxes and abuse of official powers.

IRFS is confident that Mehman Aliyev’s arrest has political motives behind it and is aimed at eliminating the last independent media outlet, which, despite many years of difficulties and harassment by the authorities, maintained its impeccable reputation as a truly professional and uncompromising media.

IRFS believes that the detention of Mehman Aliyev runs in a similar scenario, where over the recent years, the authorities have been using commercial and law enforcement agencies against independent media and NGOs to stop government criticism.

“The arrest of Mehman Aliyev, a man who personally stands at the origins of the formation of independent Azerbaijani journalism and has made a huge contribution to its development, is a blatant example of the authorities’ hatred towards the freedom of speech,” said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov. “By arresting, basically, the last of the Mohicans and one of the embodiments of free speech in Azerbaijan, the authorities are trying to create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship among the media community to the maximum possible extent. The arrest on trumped-up tax evasion charges of a journalist and head of an independent media out, who devoted his whole life to fighting corruption and increasing government accountability, is nothing more than the bigotry of a corrupt and authoritarian regime towards critics,” Huseynov summed up.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly arrested media representatives, including journalists Mehman Aliyev, Afgan Mukhtarli, Mehman Huseynov, Mahbub Zulfugarli, Seymur Hazi, Aziz Orujov, Faig Amirli, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Fikrat Ibishbayli, Afgan Sadigov, Elchin Ismayilli, Javid Shiraliyev, bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustemzade, writers Saday Shakarli and Tofig Hasanov, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov.

Given that the responsibility for the attacks on Mehman Aliyev and the employees of Turan news agency and other persecuted journalists lies personally on the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and his entourage, IRFS calls on the world community to condemn the leadership of Azerbaijan. Also, to begin to apply serious sanctions against high-ranking officials and members of their families, such as seizing all assets criminally acquired and transferred abroad, and a ban on visits to the countries of the European Union and the United States.

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