The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the “criminal assault on democracy and journalists’ rights following 73 incidents in which journalists have been beaten up during voting for a new government in Azerbaijan. “This callous disregard for the safety of journalists during an election process is absolutely unacceptable,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Between October 15 and 17, during presidential elections and a demonstration by the opposition party Muzavat in Baku, 73 journalists and media workers observing polling processes were detained, harassed and subjected to violent attacks by policemen and supporters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party.
Yesterday, special police forces took the offices of the opposition daily Yeni Musavat under control and newspaper staff were forced to move to the building of another opposition daily - Azadliq. The police detained two employees of the newspaper, Safa Qadirov and Teymur Imanov, at the entrance to the office.
The editor-in-chief of Yeni Musavat, Rauf Arifoglu, spoke today with Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, after rumours that he was about to be arrested. Mr. Arifoglu had been stopped by a number of unidentified persons. The Minister told him however that he would not be detained.
“Government attempts to stifle dissent call into question the validity of the election process,” said White. “This is a violent and damming beginning to the government of President-elect Ilham Aliev”.
Last night, a broadcast by local TV stations showed Azer Qarachenli, a journalist working for the Baku-based weekly Avropa, being kidnapped by special police forces wearing black masks.
The IFJ is urging the Azerbaijani government to reveal the location of Qarachenli immediately. The IFJ is calling on the authorities to respect the basic human rights of journalists in exercising their civil liberty to freedom of expression and to desist from targeting the press as they carry out their professional duties.
“This is not just a plea for the safety of journalists and media staff, what is at stake is the rule of law and democracy itself”, says the IFJ.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries