The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European organisation, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), have today mourned the killing of journalist Rasim Aliyev, who died of his injuries on August 9 in a Baku hospital after being beaten last Saturday by supporters of a local soccer player.
Aliyed had previously criticised the football player’s behavior on his Facebook account.
I don't want someone this amoral, impertinent and unable to control himself to represent me on European soccer fields.
After the attack, Rasim Aliyev gave an interview on August 8 to Meydan TV while in the hospital. He said everything started when he criticised the football player Cavid Huseynov for his behavior after his Azeri club team, Qabala FK, played the Cypriot club Apollon in Cyprus in a UEFA Europa League match on July 30. Journalist Aliyev wrote on his Facebook page that he did not want “someone this amoral, impertinent and unable to control himself to represent me on European soccer fields.”
Following his comment, the journalist received a call from someone claiming to be Huseynov’s cousin, who yelled and swore at him on the phone before inviting him to present his apologies.
After getting out of his car to shake hands, the journalist said he was suddenly attacked from behind and knocked to the ground, kicked and beaten by six men for about 40 seconds. The perpetrators took his phone and wallet and ran away in different directions.
"We are appalled by our colleague Aliyev's murder, especially under these unacceptable circumstances, and we extend condolences to his family and friends," said IFJ's President Jim Boumelha. "We urge the Azeri authorities to do their utmost to find and punish the authors of this outrageous killing of an innocent journalist who was just expressing himself."
The EFJ's president Mogens Blicher Bjerregård added that, “The climate of impunity for violent acts against journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan may encourage some individuals to commit such grave crimes without being punished. Journalists, like every citizen in Azerbaijan, must be free to share their personal comments on social networks without fear of receiving threats. The country must also stop its permanent prosecution against journalists and release all of them in order to decrease the current tensions.”
Rasim Aliyev was a freelance journalist working for Ann.az website and mainly used to work as director for the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), one of Azerbaijan's leading media-freedom organizations until it was forced to shut down last year after its bank account was frozen, office raided, and its director, Emin Huseynov, harassed. "We strongly believe that Rasim Aliyev has been targeted due to his work for our organisation," said IRFS office in Baku.
The authorities said “a criminal case was launched into the incident and an investigation is underway.”
Coinciding with the first edition of the European Games mid-June in Baku, the IFJ and EFJ sent a joint open letter to the Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev, denouncing attempts to silence the press in the country and advocating for the release of seven journalists who still remain behind bars. One of them, the investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, faces charges of libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power. Her trial began in Baku last 24 July.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries