Azerbaijan media: chronology of pressure

The following is the English translation of the

original video report

released by Radio Liberty Azerbaijan Service on the state of media in Azerbaijan. Detailing arrests, intimidation, and all other kinds of pressure, the report is a grim overview. The situation has only worsened as more journalists face pressure with each passing year. The measures to silence free media have only intensified.

The English translation of the text is below the video.

July 17th, marks murdered editor in chief of “Monitor” magazine, Elmar Huseynov’s birthday. Every year a group of individuals visits the grave of Huseynov, who was supporter of free speech commemorating his memory.

Elmar Huysenov, was murdered with a firearm in front of his house on March 2nd, 2005. Neither the perpetrators nor the people behind this murdered have been arrested. International organizations, media institutions view Huseynov’s murder as a plot against freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

It has been nine years since Huseynov’s death. This day is marked as the black stain on media freedom in Azerbaijan. What has changed in these nine years? Were there any obstacles in activities of media organizations? Has the pressure against journalists increased or decreased? In order to find answers to the following questions, let us have an overview of media of the past nine years in a chronological order.

In 2006, more than 20 journalists were subject to physical pressure. 17 court cases were launched against media. 6 journalists were arrested.

In 2007, 27 journalists were subjects of pressure. The editor in chief of two local magazines, Eynulla Fatullayev was sentenced to two years and six months in jail for his article, insulting the victims of the Khojaly tragedy.

In 2008, there were 44 cases of physical pressure, psychological intimidation, and beating. The most remembered story of the year happened to Agil Khalil, correspondent with the local Azadliq newspaper. He was attacked while covering a story at the “Olive Garden” in Baku. 20 days following the incident, Khalil was stabbed despite his frequent complaints of being intimidated.

In 2009, 7 journalists were in jail. There were 39 court cases against media outlets. 41 journalists were beaten, intimidated for their professional activity. The highlight of 2009 however was the arrest of two bloggers, Emin Milli and Adnan Hacizade.

In 2010, there were 71 court cases against media. 56 journalists faced pressure of various forms. In the same year, all journalists serving time were released. Only Eynulla Fatullayev remained behind bars.

Eynulla Fatullayev was released in 2011. However, 3 more journalists were jailed in the same year. 72 journalists faced physical pressure. The heaviest of cases that year was the stabbing of a publicist- Rafig Tagi was stabbed several times on the way to his apartment by unknown men. He died four days later at the hospital where he was getting treatment. Who stabbed him, is one question, the strange circumstances of his death at the hospital is another question- despite his wounds, the doctors were saying he was on his way to recovery. The perpetrators are still at large. And on January 8th, 2014, the investigative committee closed the criminal case all together.

11 journalists were sentenced in 2012. The highlight of this year was the blackmailing of Khadija Ismayil, correspondent of “Radio Liberty” radio who was investigating the secret businesses of the president Aliyev’s family. A series of videos of intimate nature shot with hidden cameras were distributed widely to prevent the journalist from her further work.

In 2013, there were 49 court complaints against media outlets. The heaviest of court decisions last year was against “Yeni Musavat” newspaper. The court partially granted the claim of “Gilan” Gebele Can Factory. Out of requested AZN1million, the paper was fined with AZN50,000. 9 journalists and some 5 bloggers were in jail in 2013.

Finally, looking at the first half of this year, there has been more than 20 cases of physical pressure against journalists. The perpetrators haven’t been brought to justice. Currently, 10 journalists are in jail.

The black color of these events staining freedom of speech and expression, fade as the time goes by. But its not forgotten, nor can it make one forget… The continuing arrests and pressure in the country only fuels it again.

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