Predators of Press Freedom: Azerbaijan - Ilham Aliev
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||3 May 2011|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Predators of Press Freedom: Azerbaijan - Ilham Aliev, 3 May 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dc2b53528.html [accessed 8 March 2014]|
Ilham Aliev, President, Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliev was carefully prepared for the presidency of this oil-rich country (courted by many foreign governments) by his father, Heydar Aliev, its ruler since 1969. He headed the ruling party's candidate list in the 1999 parliamentary elections and, after his father suffered a heart attack live on TV in April 2003, he was appointed prime minister and then elected president later that year. He was "reelected" with 89% of the vote in October 2008 and tightened his grip in 2009 with removal of limits on reelection. Initially seen as an amiable man unsuited to the harsh realities of politics, he proved himself a worthy heir of his father by cracking down on opponents and on newspapers that support the opposition or criticise the country's widespread corruption.
A slight thaw in 2010, when nearly all imprisoned journalists and bloggers were freed, soon ended. The editor of the weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the daily Gundelik Azerbaijan, Eynulla Fatullayev, was detained for no good reason and in violation of European Court of Human Rights rulings, and repression sharply increased in early March 2011 as the regime appeared to panic in the face of the Middle East uprisings. Young bloggers and activists such as Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who called for demonstrations through Facebook, were jailed. Protests still took place, notably on 11 March and 2 April, but were brutally put down and many journalists arrested and beaten as they tried to cover the unrest. Staff of the opposition paper Azadlig were kidnapped and released after being forced to promise not to criticise the regime. Online activity became more difficult, with independent news sites hacked into, connections very difficult in regions such as Nakhichevan and several Internet service providers ordered to block access to Facebook.