“Yeni Jumhuriyyet” editor threatened with death for criticizing the Council of State Support to NGOs

The editorial office of “Yeni Jumhuriyyet” newspaper underwent an attack on December 11. The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) was informed about the incident by the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Nasimi Sharafkhanli.

According to Sharafkhanli, chief editor of the information portal of the Council of State Support to NGOs, Senan Najafov and a person named Shahin Maharrammov came to the newspaper’s office and expressed their disapproval of an article titled Crusade against NGOs and machinations of Azay Guliyev (P.S. the head of the Council of State Support to NGOs).       

“Senan Najafov expressed his disapproval saying that we are prejudiced towards the Council and its head Azay Guliyev which is evident from the article. I told them that we won’t remove the article from the website, but we are ready to publish the Council’s position. Senan said “that is all from me” and the other man, Shahin Maharrammov, who is said to be Azay Guliyev’s relative, started to insult me. He threatened that if that article does not disappear from the website, I’ll make you disappear together with it. “The persons, whom I make disappear are never found” said the man. After they went away, I contacted the Council’s press secretary Safar Alisharli. He said Shahin Maharammov is not an ill-bred man and there must have been a misunderstanding. Then, we asked them to clear up the matter and until that we’ll keep quiet about the issue. We waited, but no reaction came from them and then we decided to go public. After that Safar Alisharli called me and asked to remove the article related to the threats and unless I did so he threatened “Shahin, we can run over you with a bus, because you hurt his pride”. Then I asked “And don’t you think that so many threats are hurting our pride as well? That’s why we’ll keep the article and our position will not change until we get a reasonable explanation for the rudeness done against us.”  And then we saw that the newspaper’s website was destroyed” said Sharafkhanli.

IRFS contacted Safar Alisharli and the Council’s head of press service Elmaddin Behbud to learn their views regarding the issue.  Alisharli said “Yeni Jumhuriyyet” newspaper has a prejudice against the Council and spreads misinformation about it which causes regret. “The purpose of our editor-in-chief Mr. Senan Najafov’s and the other employee’s visit to the newspaper’s office was to clarify the reason why they published false and biased information about the Council. Mr. Najafov is a professional and experienced journalist and he just expressed his disapproval. Not other demand or purpose was the case. And another employee of ours just accompanied our chief editor. On the contrary, Nasimi Sharafkhanli was rude towards them and now spreads slanderous information behind their back. In this way they just advertise themselves” said Alisharli.  In turn, Elmaddin Behbud said if this continues in this way they will respond. “In response to “Yeni Jumhuriyyet” editor’s claims about threat, chief of the press service emotionally answered “Nasimi tells lies. He bulls and blunders. If this goes on this way, we’ll sue him and show him what is the journalism” said Behbudov.

Background: In the article that caused this big issue, “Yeni Jumhuriyyet” wrote, with reference to the first source, that the job of preparing financial reports for 70% of all 400 organizations funded by the Council is assigned to Council’s chief accountant Tofig Hasanov and his brother-in-law Shahin Maharrammov, and for each report they get 150 manat for each month of implemented projects, e.g. a 6-month project will cost 900 manat. As the rent for the office building, which belongs to Ali Hasanov’s son, the Council pays 10,000 manat every month. According to the article, other costs include a monthly pay of 1,200 manat to the secretariat’s driver Jeyhun Hajibeyov who is claimed to be close to the Council’s executive director, monthly 1,500 manat to a specialist on computer maintenance who is alleged to be a close relative of the chief accountant, 1,500 manat of travel expenses to the executive director, chief accountant and the lawyer, 3,000 manat for stationary expenses and 5,000 manat for publishing costs.

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