Today, the US Senate Human Rights Caucus held a special congressional briefing in Washington, DC on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The hearing aimed to examine the current political environment in Azerbaijan ahead of the November 1 parliamentary election.
The briefers included Dinara Yunus, daughter of imprisoned activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich, Miriam Lanskoy of the National Endowment for Democracy, and Tamara Grigoryeva of Freedom House.
The speakers discussed the future of democratic governance in Azerbaijan, human rights and how policymakers can support human rights in the country and encourage a reliable partnership that is advantageous for both the US and Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijani authorities would like you to believe things are great in their country, and that the parliamentary elections on November 1 will be free and fair. However, it is impossible to have free and fair elections without free press,” said Grigoryeva, who is an Emergency Assistance Program Officer at Freedom House.
She added that Azerbaijan’s free media is “approaching its extinction,” with authorities “harassing, kidnapping and arresting employees of independent opposition media.”
“Today, many of my journalist mentors, friends and colleagues remain behind bars on false charges, such as hooliganism, treason and fraud,” Grigoryeva noted. “This includes the country’s most prominent journalist, RFE/RL’s investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, political columnist Rauf Mirgadirov, and employees for Meydan TV, Azadliq newspaper and Azerbaijan Saati.”
The Freedom House program officer reminded US senators about arrests targeting relatives of Meydan TV’s journalists.
“Azerbaijani authorities have done everything possible to discourage, harass and punish free media in the country. Their actions have generated an environment of impunity, which encourages violence against free media professionals. One of the most recent examples is the murder of IRSF reporter Rasim Aliyev. While there is not a clear connection between the government and his murder, overall intolerance toward media professionals played a role in this unfortunate incident,” Grigoryeva concluded.