Reporters without Borders is alarmed by the recent arrest of yet another journalist in Azerbaijan – regional reporter Elchin Ismayilli.
As of today, no less than twelve journalists, bloggers and employees of the mass media are behind bars in Azerbaijan.
After his detention on February 17 in the city of Ismailli, the editor was arrested for pretrial detention of 24 days on charges of “extortion under aggravating circumstances”.
The prosecutor’s office has charged him with blackmailing a local civil servant. Ismayilli insists that the charges were fabricated with the goal of forcing him to cease his criticism of the local regional administration.
Ismayilli is the founder and editor of the site Kend.info, which writes about corruption and human rights violations. The editor has on multiple occasions been subject to persecution by the local government, including physical violence, arrests and claims of slander.
“Baku’s international partners should not just watch quietly when journalists are being sent to Azerbaijan’s prisons”, said a recent statement from Reporters without Borders.
“The Azerbaijani government’s scorn for its own obligations in the human rights sphere requires a prompt reaction from the international community”, notes the statement.
In addition to this, a whole number of recent events have aroused serious concern. Eight employees of the newspaper
the only remaining opposition print newspaper in Azerbaijan – were questioned by the prosecutor’s office on February 17-20 regarding the case of the newspaper’s arrested financial director Faik Amirov.
The government will not release Amirov on house arrest, despite serious health problems. After his arrest the newspaper’s activities were basically paralyzed and the newspaper ceased publication in September 2016.
The British PEN International, in turn, made an announcement on February 17 regarding the declining health of the blogger Rashad Ramazanov, who has been in prison since 2013.
His family announced a severe decline in his health and the necessity of serious treatment for a number of illnesses, including tuberculosis.
Ramazanov, critical of the government, was imprisoned for a term of nine years in November 2013 on fabricated charges of illegal narcotics trafficking.
On February 16 the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of journalist Khadija Ismayilova on charges of ‘illegal business activity’.
Ismayilova spent eighteen months in prison and was acquitted on three of five false accusations. However, the final accusation was not cleared, and the government forbade her from traveling abroad.
Azerbaijan holds 163
place of 180 countries on the Freedom of the Press index.