Siraj Abyshev, a cameraman with state-owned AzTV, and Maharram Ibragimov, a reporter for the state news agency AzerTag, were on their way to report in the village of Susuzlug when their vehicle ran over an anti-tank mine in Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar region a few kilometers from the Armenian border shortly before midday on 4 June. The explosion also killed an Azerbaijani official and injured four other people.
Hundreds of people attended funeral services for the two journalists on 5 June in the capital, Baku, and the city of Sumgait.
“The deaths of these two Azerbaijani journalists is tragic news for the entire media profession,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Other journalists wanting to report in this region could suffer the same fate or could be deterred from going. We remind the Azerbaijani authorities that they have a duty to protect journalists when they are working, and we ask them to shed all possible light on this tragic accident and to conduct a fully transparent investigation.”
They are the first journalists to be killed in the territories taken over by Azerbaijan near the Nagorno-Karabakh, since the end of last autumn’s war over the disputed region, which is located within Azerbaijan but has a mainly Armenian population. At least seven journalists were injured during the war.
Despite the signing of a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, tension is still high in the region, with the two countries disagreeing over border demarcation.
It is regarded as one of the world’s most heavily-mined regions and Azerbaijan says its attempts to demine the areas it now controls are being hampered by Armenia’s refusal to provide maps showing where it placed mines. The Armenian authorities contacted by RSF have not responded to these accusations and have not commented on the deaths of the two Azerbaijani journalists.
Armenia is ranked 63rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index while Azerbaijan is ranked 167th.