Reporters Without Borders calls on Azerbaijan to free imprisoned journalists

Sources: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Azerbaijan to release all imprisoned journalists and bloggers ahead of the European Games. In a


issued on May 13,  RSF said that Azerbaijan is currently holding at least eight journalists and bloggers in prison because of their work.

“It’s an unbearable nation that President Ilham Aliyev should be allowed to present himself as the host of a major sporting event while at the same time his regime incarcerates journalists for critical investigations and comments


 said RSF Germany’s executive director Christian Mihr.

The European Olympic Committees should not make themselves Aliyev’s accomplices, but should expressly condemn the repression of press freedom in the run-up to and during the Games. For decisions about the hosting of future sporting events of this importance, the human rights situation in the applicant countries has to be given much more weight.”

According to the RSF statement, the total number of prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan is estimated at 80. A number of well-known dissident journalists, including Rauf Mirkadirov, Khadija Ismailova and Seymur Hazi, remain in pretrial detention.

Media outlets that criticize the government, such as RFE/RL, Zerkalo and Azadliq, have faced financial pressure and police raids. Additionally, the statement draws attention to the prosecution of media NGOs and restrictive laws regulating the media.

On August 5, the bank accounts of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the Azerbaijan section of US organization IREX and the Media Rights Institute were frozen. IRFS director Emin Huseynov has held out in the Swiss Embassy in Baku since August 2014 fearing his imminent arrest, according to RSF.

Furthermore, the government has adopted laws prohibiting foreign funding for media outlets and restrictive anti-defamation laws, which allow closing down media outlets convicted of defamation twice within a year.

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