Rights groups condemn harassment of Meydan TV
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today condemned the harassment of Meydan TV by Azerbaijani authorities.
"This week's developments in Azerbaijan are outrageous, and we urge the authorities to release Shirin Abbasov and other imprisoned journalists," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. "Authorities must stop harassing Meydan TV and journalists who report for the outlet. Journalism is not a crime."
This week, Shirin Abbasov, a nineteen year-old contributor to Meydan TV, was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for disobeying the police after spending nearly thirty hours in custody. Abbasov disappeared on his way to his university early afternoon on September 16. For more than eight hours, his family, friends, and colleagues tried in vain to contact him, but his phone appeared to be switched off and he did not reply to emails. Shortly after midnight, officials from the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime confirmed they had Abbasov into custody.
Prior to his arrest, Abbasov was one of four Meydan TV staff prevented from leaving Azerbaijan after the conclusion of the European Games in June, told they were placed on a “blacklist” for unclear reasons.
Today, Baku police searched the apartment of Meydan TV contributor Javid Abdullayev, and detained freelance photographer Ahmed Mukhtar, whose brother works for Meydan TV.
On September 16, police detained and questioned freelance reporter Aytaj Akhmedova and another unnamed female trainee journalist for five hours in connection with their work for Meydan TV.
“The arrest of Shirin Abbasov is yet another act by the authorities aimed at silencing independent voices in Azerbaijan”, said International Media Support Executive Director Jesper Højberg. “Locking up government critics and stepping up pressure on the country’s few remaining independent media outlets and NGOs has had disastrous consequences for Azerbaijan’s international relations, and certainly does not bode well for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Azerbaijani government must take action now to put a stop to this downward spiral.”
Earlier this month, freelance reporters Izolda Aghayeva, Natiq Javadli and Javid Abdullayev, who work with Meydan TV, were summoned to the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the General Prosecutor’s office for questioning. The journalists were informed that they would be questioned about their coverage of last month’s events in Mingachevir, even though some of them were not even present in Azerbaijan during the events. However, the majority of the questions during hours-long interrogations revolved around Meydan TV’s activities. The journalists say that Mingachevir was "a pretext for questioning."
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