OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Press Dunja Mijatovic: the largest number of the arrested journalists in the OSCE is in Azerbaijan

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Press, Dunja Mijatovic, referred to the Standing Committee of the OSCE comprehensive report on violations of freedom of expression and media in the OSCE area in the last six months, and its response to these facts. In particular, it is reported what Mijatovic did in this regard. This report is posted on the OSCE website.

The section on Azerbaijan reads that on December 11 last year, a letter was sent to the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan in connection with the condemnation of NIjat Aliyev, an editor of the site Azadxaber.org.

On 11 December I wrote to Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov regarding several worrying developments, including the sentencing of Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the azadxeber.org news website, on 9 December by the Baku Court to 10 years imprisonment for various crimes. I also raised the 22 November arrest of Abdul Abilov, an online activist and blogger, on drug-related charges and the 4 December interrogation of and official warning given to Natig Adilov, a correspondent with the newspaper Azadliq. On 19 May I received a response from authorities informing me that Aliyev’s criminal conviction was fully supported by valid evidence and that any allegations stating that he was prosecuted for expressing a critical viewpoint are entirely without merit. They also assured me that Abilov’s arrest was not linked to his Facebook posts criticizing authorities. I will continue monitoring the situation involving these convicted journalists.

On 27 January I wrote to the authorities expressing concern about the arrest of Omar Mamedov, an online activist, on drug-related charges. I expressed hope that the allegations against him will be thoroughly investigated and requested more information on the case. On 24 February I received a letter from the Administration of the President informing me that the detention of Mamedov is not related to his Internet activity, but rather based on concrete evidence. I will continue to follow Mamedov’s case.

On 6 February I wrote to the authorities and expressed my concern about reports that, since January, Baku authorities have terminated the licenses of kiosk owners selling newspapers. Although this decision was reportedly due to the pending renovation of the kiosks, I expressed concern about the effect it might have on citizens to freely receive information through regular media distribution channels. I requested more information on the situation.

I received a response on 8 April informing me that the kiosks have been replaced by modern newsstands in different residential areas and that the authorities are setting up a modern network for the sale of print media.

On 25 February I wrote to Minister Mammadyarov regarding reports that the Prosecutor’s Office required Khadija Ismayilova, a RFE/RL journalist, to disclose confidential sources. I expressed hope that Ismayilova’s right not to disclose the identity of her sources will be respected. I also brought his attention to the cases of online activists and bloggers Abilov and Mamedov.

On 8 April I was informed by authorities that Ismayilova had been treated in accordance with existing legislation and that her civil and professional rights had not been violated. I was also assured that both Abilov and Mamedov’s arrests were not linked to their work as journalists and that their cases are being addressed in accordance with national legislation and in line with the country’s international obligations. I will continue to follow the developments in these cases.

On 22 April I wrote to the authorities expressing my concern about the arrest of Rauf Mirkadyrov, a journalist from the newspaper Zerkalo, on charges of high treason. I expressed hope that such serious charges would be very carefully investigated and requested more information on the case.

In a response from the authorities on 19 May, I was told that Mirkadyrov’s detention was not related to his role as a journalist, but based on evidence.

On 28 April I wrote to the authorities raising the issue of an attack on Farahim Ilgaroglu, a journalist from the newspaper Yeni Musavat. I stated that I was pleased that the police have initiated an investigation into the matter and expressed hope that the perpetrator will be identified and brought to justice. I also requested additional information on the case.

On 7 May I issued a public statement condemning the attack by police on Etimad Budagov, a journalist with Turan news agency, the detention of Mahammad Turkmen from Yeni Musavat, Khalid Garayev from Azadliq and Amid Suleymanov from the Mediaforum website and the attempted detention of Parvana Bairamova of the Turan news agency and a contributor to Voice of America, by law enforcement agencies on 6 May. I emphasized that attacks on journalists by law enforcement is especially unacceptable given their responsibility to protect members of the media.

I also condemned the attack on Huseyn Azizoglu, a journalist with Obyektiv TV, in the presence of police on 7 May, which resulted in injuries and damage to his camera. I expressed hope that these incidents will be subject to a swift and transparent investigation.

On 15 May I issued a public statement expressing my outrage by the eight year prison sentence handed down to Parviz Hashimli, a journalist with the newspaper Bizim Yol, and called on the authorities to stop imprisoning journalists for their work.

I also used the opportunity to bring attention to the lengthy sentences handed down to other journalists, such as Nijat Aliyev (mentioned above), Sardar Alibeyli, editor-in-chief of the

P.S. Nota newspaper and Rashad Ramazanov, an independent blogger.

In addition, I expressed concern about the 14 May detention, seizure of materials and expulsion from the country of Laurent Richard and Emmanuel Bach, French journalists with Premières Lignes.

On 20 May I wrote to the authorities regarding the 16 May attack on Islam Shikhaliyev, a reporter for Azadliq Radiosu, in which assailants attacked the journalist and took his camera and mobile phone in the presence of police officers who, reportedly, did not intervene. I expressed hope that a speedy investigation would result in the perpetrators being brought to justice.

On 20 May I wrote to the authorities regarding the 26 May attack on another Azadliq Radiosu reporter, Elchin Ismail, in which assailants beat him and broke his camera. I again expressed hope that a speedy investigation would bring the perpetrators to justice. In the same letter I said that I was pleased to learn that journalists Faramaz Novruzoglu (Allahverdiyev) and Fuad Huseynov were granted amnesty.

On 29 May I wrote to the authorities concerning the five- and a half-year prison sentence handed down to blogger Abdul Abilov. I also mentioned the case of Parviz Hashimli and expressed hope that the Appeals Court would overturn both verdicts.

With Abilov’s conviction there are now more than 10 members of the media in prison, convicted or awaiting trial, which is the highest number in the country my Office has observed since it was established. This troubling trend is a sign of a rapidly deteriorating media freedom environment, which discourages investigative journalism and contributes to a climate of threat and intimidation, reads the report by Mijatovch.

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