Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
7 February 2013
The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns
a recent wave of crackdowns on dissent and calls on the government to
end the media and NGO witch hunt. Less than a year before Azerbaijanis
are to elect a new president, groups that have played key roles in the
promotion of fair and transparent elections could be paralyzed by a new
draft bill before parliament that would further restrict nongovernmental
IRFS is deeply troubled by the authorities' prospect of amending the
current legislation in order to further restrict the activities of
NGOs. According to proposed amendments, if NGOs receive any kind of
donation above 200 AZN (in cash or through wire transfers) without a
proper agreement, they may face huge fines and confiscation of property.
Simply put, if approved, the new legislation would allow the government
to easily close down unwelcome NGOs in the matter of a few days.
The move follows a series of harsh punishments handed down for
dissent. Journalists, activists and the leader of a political movement
have been arrested. Furthermore, huge fines have been imposed on
peaceful protestors in Baku, and protestors in Ismayilli have been
arrested and intimidated.
IRFS also states that Azerbaijan's authorities illegally curtail
citizens' rights to freedom of association and assembly, contrary to the
country's obligations undertaken before the Council of Europe, the OSCE
and the United Nations.
As such, IRFS is deeply concerned over a recent negative trend of
hotels and conference centers refusing space for NGOs to conduct their
For instance, not long ago, the Park Inn Hotel broke its commitment
to rent its premises to the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies
Center shortly before the agreed date. On February 6, 2013, the a/m
hotel created artificial obstacles for events organised by two other
civil society organizations — IRFS and the National and International
IRFS fears the crackdown will further intensify as the country prepares for the presidential elections in October.
“The government is conducting a carefully coordinated witch hunt
aimed at silencing its critics,” said Emin Huseynov, IRFS Chair.
“Apparently, the authorities want to do away with organizations that
[monitor] human rights violations”.
IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani government to stop putting pressure on
NGOs, and ensure citizens' rights to freedom of association and
IRFS calls on international organizations, namely the Council of
Europe and the OSCE to take more aggressive stances and to exert
pressure on Azerbaijani authorities to uphold the principles of freedom
IRFS condemns police brutality on reporters and human rights
defenders and calls on the authorities to immediately identify those
persons within their ranks who
"We encourage authorities, beginning with President Aliyev, to
express revulsion and anger at the violent and destructive behavior of
police in their handling of journalists and for hindering objective
coverage of protests, and to take whatever action they can to prevent
such brutality," says the IRFS Chair.
IRFS considers that journalists' safety has become a burning issue
ahead of the 2013 presidential elections. Ironically, just two months
ago at a workshop on the safety of reporters organized by the OSCE,
high-ranking government officials assured that journalists wearing
illuminated press jackets would not encounter police violence. Contrary
to their commitment, Azerbaijani police have demonstrated increased
violence against journalists in the past two months, for example, by
beating Farahim Ilgaroglu, a newspaper correspondent for Yeni Musavat.
IRFS declares that interference in the professional activities of
journalists is a violation of the right to access information, which is
protected under Article 50 of the Azerbaijani Constitution (freedom of
information) and Article 10 of the European Convention (freedom of
In addition, impeding the professional activities of a journalist creates liability under Article 163 of the Constitution.
IRFS demands that the police conduct disciplinary investigations and
punish those responsible. IRFS calls on the Minister of the Interior
and the Chief of National Police to take the necessary measures to
prevent similar events in the future. IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani
government to put in place laws to ensure the safety of journalists.
IRFS notes that threats and attacks are never investigated and culprits and hardly ever brought to book.
IRFS condemns the use of violence to restrict freedom of expression
and calls for the authorities to end this vicious cycle by immediately
and impartially investigating all attacks against journalists and
bringing those responsible to justice.
IRFS also calls upon international organizations, especially the
OSCE, to stay focused on attacks against journalists while performing
professional duties and demand the Azerbaijani government to find and
punish those who are responsible for these attacks.