Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns a particularly shocking attack last weekend on Seymour Khaziyev, a journalist with the opposition newspaper Azadlig. The organization is alarmed by the sharp rise in violence against journalists.
Khaziyev was set upon by six masked men as he was returning to his home in Jeryanbatan on the outskirts of Baku on the night of 26 March. Taken in a minibus to an unknown location with a sack over his head, he was then tortured for two hours. The two telephones he was carrying were confiscated and the contents of his laptop were examined. One of his attackers asked him to be as “intelligent and quiet as the others.”
A member of the opposition Popular Front party, Khaziyev is an established journalist who is often critical of the government.
This attack, the first of its kind on a journalist in Azerbaijan since 2008, is extremely worrying and suggests that the climate is becoming fraught again for media personnel. At a press organized on 26 March by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, Azadlig editor Ganimat Zahid condemned the “barbarity and savagery” of the assault.
The head of the news agency Turan, Mehman Aliyev, linked the incident to the current social and political unrest in the country. “When a society wakes up, the first in the firing line are the journalists,” he said. Media freedom violations have been growing in the past several weeks as young people and opposition movements have been stepping up their activities.
The holding of pro-democracy demonstrations two weeks ago resulted in several arrests and physical attacks on bloggers and journalists. On 18 March, Fakhraddin Hajibeyli, who was also working for Azadlig, was assaulted in Berlin in troubling circumstances.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to stop the violence against journalists at once. The relative improvement noted last year, when Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were released, now seems to have been no more than a brief let-up.
As the Partnership Group for Azerbaijan prepares to hold talks with Council of Europe parliamentarians in Strasbourg in mid-April, Reporters Without Borders remains vigilant and determined to combat all violations of freedom of expression in the country.
Joint press release of the Partnership Group for Azerbaijan: