On 29 August, the German Government’s Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler (SPD) issued a
on the arrest of Mehman Aliyev. The statement expresses ‘concern’ over the arrest of the director of Turan Information Agency, the only Azerbaijani independent media outlet based inside the country. The Commissioner promises to continue following Mehman Aliyev’s case.
The stifling of free speech and political opposition in Azerbaijan is in fact cause for more than just concern. In Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, Azerbaijan is
162 out of 180 countries. A group of former political prisoners, journalists, and human rights defenders, including Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Khadija Ismayilova, Asabali Mustafayev, Fariz Namazli, Khalid Bagirov, Shahvalad Chobanoglu, Rovshan Hajibeyli and Samir Kazimli have formed a special Working Group that studies the cases of political prisoners and
reports. Earlier this month, the Working Group published an updated list of political prisoners currently behind bars in Azerbaijan, placing the total number at 160, including 58 journalists and bloggers.
The Commissioner’s statement on Mehman Aliyev’s arrest was published on 29 August, three months to the day after an independent Azeri journalist living in exile, Afgan Mukhtarli, was kidnapped in broad daylight from the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia. The next day Mukhtarli turned up under arrest in Azerbaijan, facing trial for illegally crossing the border and resisting arrest. On that occasion the Commissioner was ‘
,’ but to little effect: Mukhtarli remains in prison, his health steadily
We at Meydan TV requested the Commissioner’s support on 16 August on behalf of other Azerbaijani journalists living in exile. Two journalists in Tbilisi have been
a three-month paid internship at Reporters Without Borders’ Berlin office. On 5 July they applied for visas at the German Embassy in Georgia, but despite presenting the Embassy with the complete package of required documents, the process has dragged on and on. The journalists, having fulfilled everything that was required of them, are continually met with new demands from the Embassy, including for additional documents that are neither listed on the Embassy’s website nor were requested at the time the initial documents were submitted. The Embassy’s actions create the impression of an unofficial rejection, prolonging the visa application process until the journalists give up. The Commissioner has so far failed to offer support.
In September last year, the German Embassy in Tbilisi
the visa application of Leyla Mustafayeva, kidnapped journalist Afgan Mukhtarli’s wife. An independent investigative journalist, Leyla Mustafayeva had been accepted to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom’s Journalists-in-Residence Programme in Leipzig, Germany. It is not a stretch to suggest that, had the Embassy issued visas for her and her family, Afgan Mukhtarli would now be safe in Leipzig rather than in a prison cell in Baku.
We at Meydan TV are encouraged to see that the German Government through its Human Rights Commissioner expresses concern for the situation of arrested journalists. We would welcome it even more had the Commissioner intervened on behalf of journalists who are not yet imprisoned.