IFJ Calls for Investigation of Attack on Journalists in Azerbaijan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the attack on Azadlig newspaper correspondent Agil Khalil, who was stabbed in Baku yesterday, and called on authorities in Azerbaijan to find those responsible.

“This violent attack underscores the dangers that media face in Azerbaijan where investigative journalists face pressure from the government and violence from criminal groups,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “The Authorities must launch a thorough investigation to find those responsible.”

Khalil was attacked by four unidentified assailants as he was on his way home from work. One of the attackers stabbed him in the chest, seriously wounding him. He is currently being treated in hospital.

According to the IFJ’s affiliate in Azerbaijan, the Journalists’ Trade Union (JuHI), Khalil recognized two of his assailants who attacked him on February 22 and had threatened to harm him further if he did not stop an investigation he was doing on illegal land sales in Baku.

Khalil informed authorities about the February attack but the police did not investigate, JuHI said, even though the journalist provided photos of his attackers. Yesterday, before his attack, Khalil contacted the Baku police and asked them to follow up on the investigation. He was stabbed hours later.

Azadlig is an opposition newspaper that has come under regular pressure from the government. Earlier this month Ganimat Zahid, the newspaper’s editor-in chief, was sentenced to a four-year prison term for hooliganism. In 2006, Mirza Sakit, a correspondent for the newspaper was sentenced to three years in jail for what the union believes was a false conviction on drug charges.

Azerbaijan has one of the worst records in the world for jailing journalists and harassing independent media.

The IFJ is calling on authorities to find Khalil’s attacks and those who might have ordered the attack. It is also calling on police to investigate all crimes against journalists and find those responsible.

“Sadly, it is no surprise that when police fail to investigate crimes against journalists, it sends a message that they can attack media workers with impunity,” White said. “This is a classic example of what happens when governments fail to act.”

For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide