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The year in media: 2017

January

  • On 9 January, officers from the Nasimi district police department detained videoblogger Mehman Huseynov. On 10 January, he was found guilty of disobeying the police and fined 200 manats ($118). Huseynov told reporters that the police tortured him while in custody, a statement which M. Musayev, the chief of the Nasimi district police department, called libelous. Musayev filed a lawsuit, and on 3 March the Surakhani district court sentenced Mehman Huseynov to two years in prison.

  • Anar Hasanov, Lider TV's Moscow correspondent, was dismissed from his job because of a question he put to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. "If Azerbaijan launches anti-terror operations and liberates the occupied lands, what will Moscow do?" the journalist enquired. "Will it turn a blind eye or will it interfere in Azerbaijan's internal affairs?"

February

  • On 7 February, blogger Mehman Galandarov was sentenced to three months in prison. The blogger rejected the charges of drug possession and said he was arrested because he had participated in anti-government rallies in Baku and Tbilisi.

  • Elchin Ismayilli was arrested on 17 February, 2017, accused of threatening officials in Ismayilli District that he would circulate defamatory information about them unless they paid him. Ismayilli rejects the accusations of extortion, abuse of office, and accepting bribes. On 18 September, the Shaki Court for Serious Crimes sentenced the journalist to nine years in prison and banned him from holding certain posts for a period of three years.

March

  • On 3 March, the military detained journalist Ilgar Valiyev while he was filming in the village of Chiragli in Agdam District. Valiyev's defense lawyer said he was tortured when he was detained.

  • On 17 March, Azerbaijani law was amended to allow the executive branch of government to shut down websites without a court ruling.

April

  • On 5 April, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the media corporation ANS, whose television and radio stations were shut down in 2016 after planning to air an interview with Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the primary political enemy of Turkish President Erdoğan. The founders of ANS later published an open letter to deceased president Heydar Aliyev asking him to intervene on their behalf.

  • On 26 April, Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index, ranking Azerbaijan 162 out of 180 countries. In 2016, Azerbaijan had been ranked 163 for press freedom.

  • On 29 April, blogger Mehman Galandarov reportedly committed suicide in Kurdakhani pre-trial detention facility under suspicious circumstances. 

May

  • On 2 May, the executive director of the online TV channel, Aziz Orujov, was arrested and sentenced to 30 days administrative detention for disobeying the orders of a police officer. On 1 June, the day he was to be released, the Prosecutor General's Office accused Orujov of illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office, and the journalist was sentenced to an addition four months.

  • On 23 May, Gazakh-based independent journalist Nijat Amiraslanov was arrested and sentenced to 30 days for disobeying the orders of a police officer. In detention Amiraslanov was tortured, as a result of which he lost most of his teeth.

  • On 29 May, investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli disappeared from the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia, only to reappear in custody in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities charged Mukhtarli with crossing the border into Azerbaijan illegally, smuggling (he was allegedly carrying $10,000 at the time of his arrest), and resisting the orders of a police officer. The journalist himself maintains that he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and brought to Azerbaijan against his will. Mukhtarli was later sentenced to six years.

June

  • Independent journalists accused of collaborating with Meydan TV were interrogated at the Serious Crimes Investigation Department regarding Afgan Mukhtarli's case.

  • On 14 June, journalist Fikrat Faramazoghlu, the director of jam.az, was sentenced to seven years in prison. The journalist was convicted of using threats to extort money from the owners of different restaurants and catering facilities. Faramazoghlu, however, rejects the accusations, and says that he was arrested for uncovering brothels that operated under the guise of restaurants or massage parlors, under the protection of corrupt officials.

July

August

  • On 8 August, the Ministry of Taxes began a tax inspection of Turan News Agency, claiming that the news agency had evaded paying 37,000 manats (about $22,000) in back taxes. On 24 August, Mehman Aliyev, the news agency's director, was arrested, and charged with tax evasion, abuse of office, and illegal entrepreneurship. On 31 August, Turan News Agency announced that it ended operations as a commercial entity.

September

  • On 5 September, the Bilasuvar District Court sentenced Ziya Asadli, a regional correspondent of Azadlig newspaper, to three years in prison. In May, a criminal case had been launched against him under Article 221.3 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism with the use of a weapon).

  • On 29 September, well-known investigative journalist and former political prisoner, Khadija Ismayilova, received the Allard Prize established by the School of Law of Canada's University of British Columbia. Ismayilova could not attend the ceremony as she is under a travel ban.

  • ATV, a popular Azerbaijani entertainment channel, changed hands in September. The director of the channel, Vugar Garadaghli, and his team were dismissed, while Azar Khalilov, the director of SOCAR's CBC channel, was put in his place. His brother Vugar Khalilov replaced him at CBC.

October

  • On 2 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced that it was looking into a complaint filed by nine journalists and six lawyers and activists who had been banned from traveling abroad.

  • On 14 October, journalist Fikrat Huseynli, a Dutch citizen of Azerbaijani origin, was detained in Kiev's Boryspil airport on his way from Ukraine to Dusseldorf, Germany. Huseynli was detained on the basis of an Interpol alert request by Azerbaijan, where the journalist had been charged with illegally crossing the border and hooliganism. The journalist remained in detention until 27 October, when the Lukyanovsky district court in Kiev ordered his release. Fikrat Huseynli had most recently been working with Turan TV, a satellite television channel broadcast from Europe.

  • On 26 October, Leyla Mustafayeva accepted the Pavel Sheremet Journalism Award 2017 on behalf of her husband, imprisoned journalist Afgan Mukhtarli.

November

  • On 7 November, a French court rejected Azerbaijan's lawsuit against two journalists who had called the Azerbaijani government a "dictatorship." Baku had charged the two television reporters, Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard, with libel, and demanded 1 euro in symbolic damages.

  • On 8 November, Kapital Bank froze the account of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova's on orders from the Ministry of Taxes. When the journalist's complaint was rejected by a Baku court, Ismayilova appealed the decision. Her appeal was rejected as well.

  • On 16 November, the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award was awarded to investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova at a ceremony in London. Due to a travel ban, the journalist accepted the award by Skype.

  • On 16 November, parliamentarian Agil Abbas suggested at a meeting of the National Assembly that journalists working for foreign media outlets should be declared "spies". His proposal became a talking point.

December

  • On 12 December, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a list of journalists imprisoned in 2017. By CPJ's count, 10 journalists are in prison, and 10 more are banned from traveling abroad.

  • On 15 December, the Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Aziz Orujov, the executive director of the online TV channel Kanal 13, to six years in prison. On 18 December, access to kanal13.tv was blocked.

  • On 15 December, the Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law restricting journalists' ability to report on the military. Now journalists can only report official statements and information provided by military press officers.

  • On 19 December, the police detained Avaz Zeynalli, the editor-in-chief of Khural newspaper. According to his wife, the journalist was detained for his criticism of the police. On 20 December, the Binagadi district court ordered him to pay a fine to the tune of 200 manats ($120) and he was released.

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