Predator

Ilham ALIEV

24 December 1961



President of the Republic of Azerbaijan since 2003

Predator since taking office, but especially since 2014



 Azerbaijan, 167th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



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Dear [Name of Candidate],

I am writing to ask you what you plan to do to defend the First Amendment, freedom of the press, and the fundamental rights of journalists to practice their profession freely in what has become an increasingly hostile environment for information and news providers.

The United States, which enshrines press freedom in the First Amendment of its Constitution, is currently witnessing a drastic decline in media freedom. On June 28, one of the most horrific attacks on press freedom in the United States occurred when five employees, including four reporters, were killed at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, which comprehensively documents press freedom violations in the US committed by national, state, and local authorities as well as private individuals, 33 journalists were arrested, 43 were physically attacked, and 15 seizures of journalists’ equipment occurred in 2017. In one of these incidents, Rep. Greg Gianforte physically assaulted a Guardian journalist the night before his state’s election. While covering the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, journalists were impersonated on social media, impeding their ability to accurately investigate the facts and disseminate information which could be vital to preventing a similar tragedy. This hostility towards the press not only risks compromising the American public’s right to be informed through journalists’ reporting, but can also degrade the public’s trust in the media itself.

This is not a partisan issue; it is a fundamental right that impacts every American no matter their politics. Journalism is at the crux of our democracy, and communities everywhere rely on journalists to provide them with information that is essential to their daily decision-making processes. It was local investigative journalist Curt Guyette who broke the story about Flint, Michigan’s lack of access to clean water in 2014, prompting years of class-action lawsuits, protests, and subsequent federal assistance to the city in order to try to resolve the crisis. Reporters Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, and Ronan Farrow publicized sexual assault allegations against influential Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017, leading to the ubiquitous and powerful #MeToo movement which brought decades of sexual abuse and harassment across multiple industries to light.

Yet freedom of the press in the US is currently in dire need of congressional support. It is our civic duty as one of the world’s leading democracies to uphold principles that support and protect the rights of journalists so that they may hold those in power accountable and ensure an informed and engaged community.

If you are elected, what do you plan to do to protect this utterly essential component of our democracy? What are your plans to protect the public’s right to be informed through a free and independent press?

Sincerely,
[Your name]
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Hello, my name is _______ and I am from [city, state].

I’m calling to let you know that [candidate/representative]'s stance on freedom of the press is extremely important in my decision to vote. I feel that this is not a partisan issue, but a fundamental right that impacts every American no matter their politics.

I have become increasingly concerned with the growing climate of hostility for journalists in this country, and I would like for [candidate/representative] to publicly address what they will do to defend press freedom if [he/she] is elected.

Thank you.
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Freedom of the press is suffering in the US. @[yourcandidate] if you are elected to serve in Congress, what are your plans to protect journalists and our right to be informed? Will you #DefendPressFreedom?

Democracy depends on a free and independent press and its ability to hold those in power accountable. [@yourcandidate] will you take measures to protect journalism and the First Amendment? Will you #DefendPressFreedom?

In June, four reporters were murdered in an appalling targeted attack on the Capital Gazette and freedom of the press. [@yourcandidate] what will you do to address the growing threat to journalists in this country? #DefendPressFreedom

Press freedom is in steady decline in the US. I want my representative to defend the work of journalists as well as my right to be informed. [@yourcandidate] if you are elected what will you do to protect a free press? #DefendPressFreedom
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Journalists play a crucial role in our democracy by keeping us informed and holding those in power accountable. And yet in the US, attacks on journalists are becoming more common, undermining the media's role and creating opportunities for government overreach, the erosion of press freedom, and impeding our right to be informed. I’m contacting my candidates and encouraging them to defend press freedom during their midterm election campaign. Join me at DefendPressFreedom.com

A free press is essential to our democracy. Communities everywhere rely on journalists to report on our government’s actions and hold public figures accountable, providing us with the information we need to make decisions every day. And yet physical, verbal, and online attacks against journalists in the US are increasing at an astonishing rate. I’m contacting my candidates and encouraging them to defend press freedom during their midterm election campaign. You should too. Read more at DefendPressFreedom.com

Press freedom is declining in the US at an alarming rate. Physical, verbal, and online attacks against journalists have increased drastically in the last two years. As the US midterm elections approach, we must remind our congressional candidates that journalists play a crucial role in our democracy by keeping us informed and holding those in power accountable. I’m contacting my representatives and encouraging them to defend press freedom during their midterm election campaign. Join in and help me spread the word at DefendPressFreedom.com

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    PREDATORY METHOD: Subservient judicial system




    Azerbaijan’s subservient judicial system convicts journalists on absurd, spurious charges that are sometimes very serious, while the security services never rush to investigate physical attacks on journalists and sometimes protect their assailants, even when they have committed appalling crimes. Under President Aliyev, news sites can be legally blocked if they pose a “danger to the state or society.” Censorship was stepped up during the war with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh and the government routinely refuses to give accreditation to foreign journalists.



    FAVOURITE TARGETS: Critical journalists



    Ilham Aliyev mainly targets independent media and journalists who criticise the government. Investigative reporters are liable to be persecuted if they investigate corruption, embezzlement or money-laundering. After Zaour Gambarov, an outspoken reporter who covers social and economic problems in the western Gadabay region for the Anews.az website, was physically attacked in connection with his reporting in February 2021, he found himself sentenced to three and a half years in prison on a charge of disturbing public order, before finally receiving a presidential pardon. Aliyev also pursues journalists after they flee abroad and hounds their relatives. Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative reporter who covered corruption and nepotism, fled to neighbouring Georgia but was kidnapped there in 2017, and was brought back and jailed in Azerbaijan. The brother-in-law of Turkel Azerturk – a dissident journalist based in the Netherlands and host of a programme for Turan TV – was arrested on a drug trafficking charge in 2017. The regime also practices sex-video blackmail. Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist who was investigating the Aliyev family’s involvement in corruption, was threatened with “public humiliation” in 2012 and, when she refused to abandon her journalism, secretly-filmed intimate scenes of her with her boyfriend were widely circulated online.


    OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Part denial, part hypocrisy


    “We have free media, we have free Internet. Now, due to the martial law we have some restrictions but before there have been no restrictions. The number of Internet users in Azerbaijan is more than 80 percent. Can you imagine the restriction of media in a country where Internet is free, there is no censorship, and there are 80 percent of Internet users? (...) How can you say that we don’t have free media. This is again, a biased approach. This is an attempt to create a perception in Western audience about Azerbaijan. We have opposition, we have NGOs, we have free political activity, we have free media, we have freedom of speech.” (Interview for BBC News at the height of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in November 2020).