Elnara Gasimova: the story of an independent journalist’s arrest

In the hours preceding her visit to the Main Police Department in Baku, Azerbaijani journalist Elnara Gasimova knew what awaited her.

Summoned as a witness in a criminal case against employees of the independent online publication Abzas Media, Elnara’s apprehension mirrored the fate of her colleague Nargiz Absalamova, who had been arrested a few days earlier on charges of “smuggling committed by a group of persons by prior conspiracy.”

Accompanied by her lawyer to the police department, Elnara’s arrest was confirmed by her legal representative. Despite the looming threat, she faced the situation with a mix of anxiety and resolve. In an interview with Meydan TV, she shared her perspective on the expected arrest, stating, “I can’t say that I don’t feel anxiety and fear. In the first minutes after the conversation [with the investigator], I felt funny, as if it was my turn. But then I started planning – how much time do I have, what should I do? That is, I needed to prepare.”

Anticipating her arrest, Elnara reflected on the necessity of continuing her journalistic pursuits. She expressed a determination to stand firm against the systemic pressures faced by independent media. In the face of adversity, she asserted, “No matter what they do, there are those who go under arrest with a smile on their faces, like Nargiz, or those who, like Sevinj, return to the country, knowing that they will be arrested.”

Elnara emphasized the importance of suppressing fear and pressing on, even in the face of imminent arrest. She cited the arrest of her colleagues as a driving force, saying, “One of the reasons for this is outrage at the arrest of my colleagues.”

The arrest of Elnara Gasimova is part of a wider crackdown on Abzas Media, with six journalists currently behind bars, including director Ulvi Hasanli, deputy director Muhammad Kekalov, chief editor Sevinj Vagifgyzy, reporter Nargiz Absalamova, investigative journalist Hafiz Babaly, and now Elnara Gasimova.

The case against Abzas Media started on November 20, 2023, when a search at the publication’s office allegedly uncovered 40 thousand euros. Abzas Media’s director, Ulvi Hasanli, vehemently denies the presence of any money in the office, claiming that the police planted the funds during the search.

The journalists associated with Abzas Media firmly believe that the crackdown is a reprisal for their investigative work exposing corruption and business dealings linked to high-ranking officials, including the president’s family.

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