Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Azerbaijan: Freedom of the press and the treatment of journalists (2006 - February 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 9 March 2007
Citation / Document Symbol AZE102223.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Azerbaijan: Freedom of the press and the treatment of journalists (2006 - February 2007), 9 March 2007, AZE102223.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46fa5380c.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Various sources report that freedom of the press in Azerbaijan is deteriorating or non-existent and that journalists are ill-treated by authorities (ANS TV 2 Nov. 2006; EurasiaNet 2 Jan. 2007; AI 9 Aug. 2006; ibid. 24 Jan. 2007a; The Financial Times 28 Dec. 2006; RFE/RL 7 Mar. 2006). In its 24 January 2007 report on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International (AI) outlines the following concerns:

the organization has received numerous reports regarding the harassment, including physical abuse, of journalists by law enforcement officials, a trend that has risen sharply during politically sensitive periods.... [U]nidentified actors have carried out a series of violent attacks on journalists which have resulted in life-threatening injuries or even death.... The fact that no one has been brought to justice for the attacks, and that in most cases the identity of the assailants remains unknown, has also contributed to a climate of impunity for assaults and other forms of harassment against journalists.... [T]here has been an increase in the number of politically motivated arrests. (24 Jan. 2007b)

ANS, an independent television and radio station operating in Azerbaijan, which also retransmits information from the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC), Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, is "one of the few media outlets that openly criticises the government" (AFP 19 Oct. 2006; see also RSF 12 Dec. 2006 and CPJ 27 Nov. 2006). In June 2006, some ANS employees were arrested and under "a tax investigation apparently in order to keep the station's managers from acting too independently" (HRW 11 Jan. 2007). On 24 November 2006, ANS television station was taken off the air as the National Television and Radio Council withdrew ANS' licence (ANS TV 24 Nov. 2006; RFE/RL 24 Nov. 2006; CPJ 27 Nov. 2006) for "alleged regulatory violations" (AFP 19 Oct. 2006; RFE/RL 24 Nov. 2006). ANS was also evicted from its premises along with the independent news agency Turan and opposition newspapers Azadliq and Bizim Yol with which it shared offices (EurasiaNet 2 Jan. 2007; RFE/RL 29 Nov. 2006; CPJ 27 Nov. 2006). Authorities allowed ANS to resume operations in December 2006 (COE 13 Dec. 2006; EurasiaNet 2 Jan. 2007; RSF 12 Dec. 2006). However, ANS will have to participate in a frequency bid with other stations, and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières – RSF) feared that "these concessions are just a temporary ploy by the government to appease its critics, and that a new crackdown could follow" (ibid.). Two sources indicate that these incidents were politically motivated (RSF 27 Nov. 2006; RFE/RL 29 Nov. 2006).

On 25 December 2006, Nicat Huseynov (also known as Nijat Daglar), a journalist for the opposition newspaper Azadliq, was attacked and "beaten" while leaving his home for work (The Financial Times 28 Dec. 2006; AI 24 Jan. 2007a; CPJ 26 Dec. 2006; Turan News Agency 25 Dec. 2006). Huseynov, who had written articles about corruption among high-ranking government officials, claimed that he had received threatening phone calls regarding his work prior to his attack (ibid.; CPJ 26 Dec. 2006; AI 24 Jan. 2007a; ibid. 10 Jan. 2007).

Sakit Zahidov (or Mirza Sakit Zahidov), another journalist for Azadliq in Azerbaijan, was arrested in June 2006 on drug-related charges (EurasiaNet 2 Jan. 2007; AFP 4 Oct. 2006; AI 24 Jan. 2007c; ibid. 9 Aug. 2006). Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the charges were brought against Zahidov "apparently to silence him for newspaper columns ... he wrote criticizing President Ilham Aliev and government corruption" (11 Jan. 2007; see also AI 9 Aug. 2006). In October 2006, Zahidov was sentenced to three years imprisonment (AFP 4 Oct. 2006; AI 24 Jan. 2007c; HRW 11 Jan. 2007; RSF 4 Oct. 2006). Some sources report that the sentence was "clearly politically motivated" (ibid.; AFP 4 Oct. 2006), that it was based on "trumped up" (CPJ 4 Oct. 2006) or "spurious" (HRW 11 Jan. 2007) drug charges and that Zahidov did not receive a fair trial (AI 24 Jan. 2007c; RSF 4 Oct. 2006).

Another Azadliq journalist, Fikret Huseynli, was attacked on 5 March 2006 (RSF 6 Mar. 2006; AI 10 Jan. 2007; ibid. 24 Jan. 2007b; RFE/RL 7 Mar. 2006; HRW 11 Jan. 2007). Sources report that he was "severely beaten" (ibid.), "tortured" (RSF 6 Mar. 2006) and "left for dead on the outskirts of Baku" (AI 24 Jan. 2007b; RFE/RL 7 Mar. 2006). AI reports that Huseynli had also received threatening phone calls prior to his attack telling him to cease his work (24 Jan. 2007b; AI 10 Jan. 2007).

In November 2006, editor-in-chief Samir Sadagatoglu (or Samir Sadaght Oughlo) and reporter Rafiq Tagi (also known as Rafiq Nazar Oughlo Taghizadh), both employees of the independent newspaper Sanat, were arrested for publishing an article alleged to be "blasphemous" (RSF 3 Dec. 2006; CPJ 12 Jan. 2007; ibid. 17 Nov. 2006). Sadagatoglu and Tagi were charged under Article 283 of the penal code for "inciting racial, national and religious hatred" (RSF 12 Jan. 2007; CPJ 17 Nov. 2006). An Iranian ayatollah issued a fatwa calling for the death of the two journalists (RSF 3 Dec. 2006; CPJ 12 Jan. 2007). In January 2007, a court ordered their pre-trial detention to be extended for another two months (ibid.; RSF 12 Jan. 2007).

In August 2006, Shahin Agabeyli, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Milli Yol, was arrested for ignoring a court summons for defamation charges (IRFS 2 Oct. 2006; AI 16 Aug. 2006). He was sentenced to fines and one year imprisonment for three charges of defamation (ibid.; ibid. 24 Jan. 2007b; CPJ 10 Aug. 2006), while the fourth charge of insulting the interior minister was postponed (IRFS 2 Oct. 2006). RSF indicates that the libel suit against Agabeyli was dismissed after he apologized to the Interior Minister (22 Aug. 2006; see also IRFS 2 Oct. 2006) and AI reports that Agabeyli received a pardon in October 2006 after having served two months of his sentence (24 Jan. 2007b).

In May 2006, Bahaddin Haziyev, the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Bizim Yol, was attacked by unknown assailants (Turan News Agency 19 May 2006; Trend News Agency 19 May 2006; EurasiaNet 2 Jan. 2007; HRW 11 Jan. 2007). Haziyev, who was told to stop writing "critical articles" (AI 10 Jan. 2007), was "beaten" and left by a lake in a Baku suburb (ibid.; ibid. 24 Jan. 2007b; OSCE 19 May 2006).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 19 October 2006. "Azerbaijan Clamps Down on Independent Broadcaster." (Factiva)
_____. 4 October 2006. "Opposition Azeri Journalist Given Three-Year Jail Sentence." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 24 January 2007a. "Azerbaijan: Rising Tide of Persecution Against Independent Journalism." (EUR 55/005/2007) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 24 January 2007b. "Azerbaijan: the Contracting Space for Freedom of Expression." (EUR 55/003/2007) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 24 January 2007c. "Azerbaijan: Appeal Cases." (EUR 55/002/2007) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 10 January 2007. "Azerbaijan: Appeal Cases – Climate of Impunity Fosters New Assaults on Opposition Journalists in Azerbaijan." (EUR 55/001/2007) [Accessed 20 Jan. 2007]
_____. 16 August 2006. "Urgent Action: Azerbaijan: Legal Concern/Fear for Safety." (EUR 55/008/2006) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 9 August 2006. "Azerbaijan: Freedom of Expression Under Attack." (EUR 55/006/2006) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

ANS TV [Baku, in Azeri]. 24 November 2006. "Azerbaijan's ANS TV Stops Broadcasting." (BBC Monitoring Newsfile/Factiva)
_____. 2 November 2006. "European Reps Concerned About Azeri Media Situation." (BBC Monitoring Caucasus/Factiva)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 12 January 2007. "Azerbaijan: Court Extends Journalists' Pretrial Detention." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 26 December 2006. "Azerbaijan: In Azerbaijan, Reporter Beaten as Attacks on Newspaper Continue." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 27 November 2006. "Azerbaijan: Government Cracks Down on Independent and Opposition Media." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 17 November 2006. "Azerbaijan: Two Journalists Held for Defaming the Prophet Muhammad." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 4 October 2006. "Azerbaijan: Opposition Journalist Sentenced to 3 Years Jail." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 10 August 2006. "In Azerbaijan, Editor Sentenced to Prison in Defamation Case." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]

Council of Europe (COE). 13 December 2006. "PACE Monitors Welcome ANS TV Station's Return to Airwaves, but Call for Definitive Solution." [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

EurasiaNet. 2 January 2007. Christopher Walker. "Azerbaijan: The Wider Implications of the Crackdown on Press Freedom." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2007]

The Financial Times. 28 December 2006. "Azeri Journalists to Stage Protests." (Assa-Irada/Factiva)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 11 January 2007. "Azerbaijan." World Report 2007. [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS). 2 October 2006. "The Deterioration of Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2007]

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 19 May 2006. "OSCE Office in Baku Condemns Violent Attack on Journalist." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2007]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 29 November 2006. Liz Fuller. "Azerbaijan: Authorities Intensify Pressure on Independent Media." [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 24 November 2006. "Azerbaijan Silences Independent Broadcaster." [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]
_____. 7 March 2006. Jean-Christophe Peuch. "Azerbaijan: Press Worries Increase After Assault on Opposition Reporter." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2007]

Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 12 January 2007. "Judge Orders Two Sanat Journalists Held for Another Two Months." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 12 December 2006. "Restrictions Provisionally Lifted for Independent Media, but Their Future Still in Doubt." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 3 December 2006. "Ayatollah Issues Fatwa Calling for Two Journalists in Azerbaijan to Be Killed." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2007]
_____. 27 November 2006. "Authorities Shut Down TV Station and Evict Two Newspapers and News Agency in Crackdown on Independent Media." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 4 October 2006. "Opposition Journalist's Three-Year Prison Sentence Condemned as Politically Motivated." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 22 August 2006. "Interior Minister Withdraws Suit Against Journalist." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]
_____. 6 March 2006. "Opposition Journalist Escapes Murder Attempt, One Year After Killing of Elmar Husseynov." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2007]

Trend News Agency. 19 May 2006. R. Abdullayev. "OSCE Baku Office Condemned Journalist's Attack." (Factiva)

Turan News Agency. 25 December 2006. "Opposition Journalist Attacked in Azeri Capital." (BBC Monitoring Newsfile/Factiva)
_____. 19 May 2006. "Public Disturbed by Attack on Editor." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: ANS Group of Companies, Freedom House, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), International Federation of Journalists, Internews Azerbaijan, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries