Statement: Ahead of Presidential Elections, Crackdown on Media and Activists Continues

February 6th, 2013

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the two months pre-trial detention of Yeni Musavat newspaper columnist Tofig Yagublu and calls for the withdrawal of the trumped-up charged brought against him. IRFS also expresses its grave concern about increasing repression of activists and an accompanying clampdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan ahead of the Presidential elections due to take place in October.The Yeni Musavat newspaper columnist, Tofig Yagublu was sentenced to two months in pre-trial detention after being charged with ‘public order offence’ and ‘resisting representatives of the authorities’.

As such, on February 4th Yagublu was summoned  to the Department for Investigation of Grave Crimes under the General Prosecutor’s Office for the second time, where he was accused of attempting to undermine the socio-political stability in Ismayilli region by calling on local people to resist the police and block the roads, during the January 24 protest in Ismayilli. Nasimi District Court of Baku sentenced Yagublu to two months of pretrial detention on charges of organizing actions violating the public order (Criminal Code/Article 233) and resisting representatives of the authorities or using violence against them (Criminal Code/Article 315).

The prosecution suspects Tofig Yagublu of organizing mass riot in İsmayilli, in his capacity of deputy chairman of Musavat Party which is in opposition to the authorities.

Although Yagublu is actually a deputy chairman of the opposition party, in his interviews he repeatedly mentioned that he went to Ismayilli as a correspondent of Yeni Musavat newspaper and was not engaged in any illegal activity there.

Yeni Musavat newspaper founder Rauf Arifoglu and Head of Musavat Party Executive Board Arif Hajili, both confirm that Yagublu was doing his journalism assignment in Ismayilli.

IRFS therefore considers that the grave charges brought against Yagublu are absurd. “Yagublu’s arrest is indicative of the authorities’ sensitivities about matters related –closely or indirectly to the protest in Ismayilli”, comments IRFS Chair Emin Huseynov. “We call on the authorities to immediate release Yagublu who has only done his job by reporting accurately and independently on the issues of public interest”, said Huseynov.

IRFS declares that the reason behind Yagublu’s arrest is to intimidate the independent media workers, who actively report on riots taking place in regions of Azerbaijan and whose number is steadily decreasing.

Azerbaijani government continues to severely curtail freedom of expression. Right now, nine journalists including Yagublu are behind bars in Azerbaijan.

IRFS urges the authorities to immediately release Tofig Yagublu and other journalists arrested for political motives.

IRFS also calls on the Council of Europe and other international organizations to take more aggressive stand on the Azerbaijan’s government crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms.