MEDIA FREEDOM
Azerbaijan: Press freedom violations May 2019
31 May 2019
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project tracks press freedom violations in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Learn more.

16 Incidents

Journalist asks authorities to remove travel ban and unblock his website

31 May 2019 – Former political prisoner and editor of news website gununsesi.info, which has been blocked in the country since 2018, Parviz Hashimli appealed to the state prosecutor to unblock his website and remove the travel ban against him, reported independent Turan News Agency.

Hashimli, was released from jail with presidential pardon decree issued in March 2016. He was sentenced in 2014 to eight years on trumped up charges of organising the sale of weapons to Iranians.

The website gununsesi.info was blocked shortly after Ganja events, in violation of law on mass information. Hashimli claims the accusations are groundless as he did not publish anything outside of the information that was shared by the national services. The same month, Hashimli received a notification that he is under travel ban.

Hashimli failed to meet the prosecutor even though he signed up for the meeting ahead of time.

Links: http://contact.az/ext/news/2019/5/free/Social/az/81395.htm

https://rsf.org/en/news/another-journalist-convicted-given-eight-years-prison

Categories: blocked access; legal measures; censorship;

Sources of violation: police/state security; government/state agency; court/judicial;

Journalist’s travel ban removed

29 May 2019 – Azerbaijani journalist Aynura Heydarova, who was on a travel ban, has been informed that the ban has been removed on 24 May reported independent Meydan TV.

Heydarova who has been living in exile and haven’t seen her loved ones for several years, shared the news via her Facebook profile where she also shared the official document, her family was provided with.

Heydarova, is the 9th journalist who since May, had the travel ban removed.

Links: https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/jurnalist-aynure-heyderovanin-da-sefer-qadagasi-goturuldu/?ref=list-news

http://toplum.tv/az/jurnalist-aynure-heyderovanin-da-sefer-qadaasi-gturuldu/#.XO_lYbKxXmo

Categories: legal measures, blocked access.

Source of violation: police/state security; government/state agency/public official/political party; court/judicial;

Journalist taken to court

27 May 2019 – Journalist Sevinc Vagifqizi was taken to court, in connection with her reportage about a school teacher who was involved in carousel voting on the day of presidential election in Azerbaijan, repored, Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe.

Elmira Alandarova who is also the deputy principal, claims Vagifgizi’s coverage of her as someone who has manipulated the voting day and the results was a stain for her honor and dignity. Alandarova claims she was not involved in carousel voting, even though Vagifgizi’s reporting clearly shows how Alandarova directed the carousel voting at the polling station.

Vagifgizi refutes the accusations and says they are baseless considering the same woman tried taking Vagifgizi to court right after the election but the case was closed because there was lack of evidence.

The trial will continue on June 10.

Alandarova demands that Vagifgizi apologise for damaging Alandarova’s reputation; tht the media platforms where the footage was published removes all of the footage, apologize and that Vagifgizi pays Alandarova 2500AZN.

Links: https://www.azadliq.org/a/jurnalist-se%C3%A7ki-reportaj%C4%B1na-g%C3%B6r%C9%99-m%C9%99hk%C9%99m%C9%99y%C9%99-verilib/29965093.html

https://aqreqator.az/az/siyaset/88514

Categories: criminal charges/fines/sentence; intimidation; subpoena/court order/lawsuit;  

Sources of violation: known private individual;

Journalist handed an administrative detention

27 May 2019 – Journalist Sakhavat Mammad, with Yenicag.az online newspaper, was sentenced to ten days in administrative detention, reported independent Meydan TV.

Although at first, it was reported that the reason for the journalist’s detention was a blog post he wrote in response to the news of a recent resignation of Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan the court later said, the real cause for his detention was not paying aliments.

Yenicag claims Mammad was subject to a series of attacks over his story on the retired chief of staff and that he had no intention of running away or not paying the aliments. The court in Agdam however, ruled instead to sentence the journalist to the administrative detention.

Mammad himself, writing in his story about the resignation claimed that he was attacked by a troll army when he covered the resignation story.

Azerbaijani NGO Human Rights Club also confirmed that the detention is likely connected to the story about the general.

Links: https://modern.az/az/news/201952

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/jurnalist-10-sutkaliq-inzibati-hebs-edilib/?ref=list-news

https://www.humanrightsclub.net/x%C9%99b%C9%99rl%C9%99r/2019/1668/

http://minval.info/jurnalist-s-xav-t-m-mm-d-h-bs-edilib-foto/120641

Categories: legal measures, arrest/detention/interrogation; criminal charges/fines/sentences; court order;

Source of violation: police/state security; court/judicial;

Police detain a reporter

23 May 2019 – Journalist Ayrac Ahmadova was taken to the police reported independent Meydan TV.

According to the journalist herself, she was not even filming when the police came and took her to the station. “I was waiting for the employees of Footbal+ newspaper when police came and took me to the station and held me there against the law for three hours”, explained Ahmadova.

Ahmadova also said, two other reporters Fargana Novruzova and Turkan Bashiri were stopped forcefuly by the police. One of the women reporters, shared how police ripped her jacket.

Ahmadova also said the police warned her, that from now on, no reporter could film without a permission outside the premises of the Presidential Allaparatus.

Links:

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/polis-prezident-administrasiyasi-qarsisinda-cekilis-isteyine-gore-de-saxlayacaq/?ref=list-news

http://arqument.az/az/3-jurnalist-prezident-administrasiyasnn-qarssnda-saxlanlb/

Categories: arrest/detention/interrogation;

Source of violation: police/state security

Police intervene in a protest organized by newspaper staff

23 May 2019 – A group of reporters from Futbol+ sports newspaper were prevented by the police from protesting outside the Presidential Administration reported independent Meydan TV.

The protest was a result of the state fund for mass media not allocating any money for the newspaper Futbol+

The state fund has justified its decision by telling the newspaper management they were not social or political but the newspaper management claims that are plenty of newspapers the fund supports that are not social or political in their nature.

Futbol+ was established in 1997. Its founder is Vugar Mammadov and editor in chief Mahir Rustamli. The newspaper employs around 30 journalists.  

The editor in chief Mahir Rustamli promised to set up a meeting with the presidential apparatus to find further solution.

The group held a similar protest in April.

Links:

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/polis-futbol-qezetinin-emekdaslarinin-aksiyasina-mane-olub/?ref=list-news

http://hurriyyet.org/xeber/quotfutbolquot_qezetinin_emekdaslari_aksiya_kecirdi_-_prezident_mracit_olundu_-_fotolar

Categories: blocked access; censorship; other

Source of violation: police/state security

Another Azerbaijani journalist receives notification that the travel ban has been removed

22 May 2019 – Orkhan Mammad, a reporter with Berlin based Meydan TV was informed by the prosecutor office, the travel ban imposed on the journalist as a result of the investigation against Meydan TV has been lifted, reported Meydan TV.

According to Mammadov himself, the letter dated May 13, officially informs the journalist that the travel ban was officially lifted.

Mammadov, has resided in Berlin for the last few years.

Links: https://d9mc3ts4czbpr.cloudfront.net/az/article/daha-bir-jurnalistin-serhedkecme-qadagasi-goturulub/?ref=list-news

https://mikroskopmedia.com/2019/05/22/camal-%C9%99linin-qardasinin-v%C9%99-daha-bir-meydan-tv-%C9%99m%C9%99kdasinin-s%C9%99yah%C9%99t-qadagasi-goturulub/

http://gozetci.az/daha-bir-jurnalistin-s%C9%99rh%C9%99dkecm%C9%99-qadagasi-goturulub/

Categories: legal measures, blocked access.

Source of violation: police/state security; government/state agency/public official/political party; court/judicial;

Journalist declares a hunger strike due to unfair trial

21 May 2019 – Ikram Rahimov, editor of an online news site realliq.info has gone on a hunger strike reported independent Meydan TV.

Rahimov, is protesting the unfair trial and the bogus charges.

Background:

26 October 2018 – The editor of news website realliq.az, Ikram Rahimov, was detained by unknown persons, the independent news agency Turan reported.

The following day, the State Security Services issued a statement confirming that Rahimov had been detained, adding that this was on suspicion of attempted blackmail of businessmen about whom he claimed to have damaging information.

Rahimov dismissed the allegations, saying the charges against him were imposed in retaliation for an open letter he had published about presidential aide Ali Hasanov. In this letter, Rahimov accused Hasanov – President Ilham Aliyev’s assistant for public and political affairs – and the media platforms under his control of embezzling large sums of money during the construction of apartments for journalists and violating freedom of expression.

 1 November 2018 – The Baku Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Sabail District Court to remand Rahimov in custody for two months, Turan reported. Rahimov insisted during the appeal court hearing that he had committed no crime and that there was no legal basis for his arrest. Turan quoted him as saying that he had been arrested on account of his professional activities.

On the same date, the Shirvan Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision by the Masalli District Court to impose a fine of AZN5000 (2,558 euros) against Rahimov, Turan reported.

Links: https://mappingmediafreedom.ushahidi.io/posts/22809

https://www.xural.com/jurnalist-4-gundur-acliq-aksiyasi-kecirir/

https://d9mc3ts4czbpr.cloudfront.net/az/article/bas-redaktor-bir-heftedir-acliq-edir/?ref=list-news

Categories: arrest/detention/interrogation; criminal charges/fines/sentences; legal measures, blocked access,

Source of violation: police/state security; government/state agency/public official/political party; court/judicial;

Journalist’s accreditation cancelled ahead of the Europa League final

20 May 2019 – Turan News Agency reporter Aziz Karimov lost his accreditation to cover the upcoming UEFA Europa League Final to be held in Baku on May 28, reported Meydan TV.

Although at first Karimov received accreditation from UEFA, three days later, UEFA informed the journalist his accreditation was cancelled.

When Karimov inquired with the UEFA for the reasons of this decision, the photojournalist was told that it was the local authorities who refused the accreditation to Karimov not UEFA.

Previously, the news agency Karimov represents – TURAN was also not allowed to cover the Formula 1 race that took place just a month ago in Baku.

Updates:

25 May 2019 – UEFA confirmed the accreditation of Karimov and explained the refusal, as a mistake.

Links:

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/turan-emekdasinin-akkreditasiya-problemi-hell-olundu/?ref=list-news

https://d9mc3ts4czbpr.cloudfront.net/az/article/turan-agentliyinin-emekdasina-akkreditasiya-qadagasi-qoyulub/?ref=list-news

http://faktxeber.com/turan-agentliyinin-mkdana-akkreditasiya-qadaas-qoyulub_h532066.html

http://toplum.tv/az/fotomuxbir-eziz-kerimova-akkreditasiya-qadaasi-qoyulub/

Categories: intimidation; blocked access;

Source of violation: police/state security; government/state agency/public official/political party;

Azerbaijani journalist based in Russia subject to deportation

18 May 2019 – Fuad Abbasov, an Azerbaijani journalist based in Russia,  is being deported from Moscow reported Berlin based Meydan TV.

It has been reported that several Azerbaijani individuals based in Moscow have complained to Russian authorities asking them to deport Abbasov.

Abbasov was based in Moscow.

The local court in Moscow ruled in favor and currently the deportation papers are being processed.

Updates

30 May 2019 – Abbasov will return to Azerbaijan on 31 May according to independent Meydan TV.

Although there is an appeal made to the local court on illegal deportation, unless the administrative detention where Abbasov has been placed receives the court decision by tomorrow Abbasov will be deported on 31 May.

22 May 2019 – Group of activists and family members of Abbasov have gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Baku protesting the arret of Abbasov and calling for his immediate release.

20 May 2019 – The embassy of Azerbaijan in Russia met with Abbasov reported Meydan TV.

The embassy also noted that it is following the case closely.

Links: http://qafqazinfo.az/news/detail/fuad-abbasov-moskvada-saxlanilib-deportasiya-edilirfoto-252650

https://www.meydan.tv/ru/article/azerbaycanli-jurnalist-moskvada-saxlanilib/

https://report.az/en/incident/azerbaijani-journalist-fuad-abbasov-detained-in-moscow-and-deported-fr/

https://youtu.be/DkW5QSIGOyY

https://d9mc3ts4czbpr.cloudfront.net/az/article/azerbaycan-sefirliyinin-emekdaslari-moskvada-saxlanilan-fuad-abbasovla-gorusubler/?ref=list-news

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/fuad-abbasovun-rusiyadan-deportasiya-edileceyi-tarix-melum-olub/?ref=list-news

Categories: arrest/detention; legal measures; court order/lawsuits; criminal charges/ fines/ sentence;

Source of violation: police/state security; government; court/judicial;

Journalist detained while covering a protest

18 May 2019 – Freelance reporter Nurlan Libre was detained while covering a protest in Sovetski neighborhood in the capital of Baku, reported Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe.

Libre, was covering the residents’ protest who were unsatisfied with the compensation offered to them by the authorities for their homes that were being demolished.

Libre was released later during the day with the rest of the residents who were also detained by the local police.

In an interview with Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe, Libre said, police told him they arrested him because the rest of the reporters covering the protest were women.

Links: https://www.azadliq.org/a/sovetski-etiraz-sokuntu-naraziliq/29949635.html

http://www.turan.az/ext/news/2019/5/free/Social/en/81082.htm

Categories: Arrest/detention

Source of violation: Police/state security

Journalist receives a warning from the prosecutor’s office

15 May 2019 – Journalist Anar Mammadov received a warning from the prosecutor office reported independent Meydan TV.

Mammadov explains while at the prosecutor office, he was told to stop writing stories about SOCAR- the state oil company.

Background:

18 March 2019 – Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced Anar Mammadov, editor of an independent news website criminalaz.com to five years and 6 months of suspended sentence reported Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe.

Mammadov, is currently on a two year probation period. He cannot leave the country and must report to the relevant state body.

Mammadov considers himself innocent.

Criminal.az is an independent website covering predominantly crime-related stories. The website was blocked by the authorities in 2017, along with a number of other critical and independent news websites. It later began operating under the criminalaz.com domain, which was recently blocked.

Mammadov was questioned after publishing reports on an attempt on the life of the mayor of Ganja, Elmar Valiyev, on 3 July 2018.

Links:

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/bas-redaktor-prokurorluq-socar-la-bagli-yazilarima-gore-xeberdarliq-etdi/?ref=list-news

https://mappingmediafreedom.ushahidi.io/posts/22461

https://www.azadliq.org/a/daha-bir-jurnalist%C9%99-5-il-6-ayl%C4%B1q-c%C9%99za/29828069.html

Categories: Arrest/detention/interrogation; intimidation; offline harassment;

Source of violation: Police/state security

Meydan TV targeted with DDoS attacks

9 May 2019 – After publishing an investigative story about SOCAR – the State Oil Company, the website of Meydan TV, that is already being blocked for access in Azerbaijan since 2017 received multiple DDoS attacks, reported independent Contact.az.

This is not the first time, the website is DDoSed after running a critical story or an investigative piece.

Links:

http://www.contact.az/ext/news/2019/5/free/Social/en/80843.htm

https://www.azadliq.org/a/meydan-tv-hucum/29930842.html

Categories: Blocked access; DDoS; Censorship;

Source of violation: unknown

Lawyer unable to access jailed journalist

8 May 2019 – Lawyer Elchin Sadigov was unable to meet with jailed journalist Afgan Mukhtarli during his prison visit, reported Azerbaijan service for Radio Free Europe. Speaking to the Azerbaijani service of the radio, Sadigov said although at first he was informed it will take a few minutes to process his visit. Bur rather than receiving the permission he was told no visits were allowed after 16.30 in the afternoon.

Sadigov said, lawyers were able to meet with their defendants as long as they came before 17.00.

The penitentiary service where journalist Mukhtarli is being held, so far, has not provided any explanation.

Links:

https://www.azadliq.org/a/v%C9%99kili-%C9%99fqan-muxtarl%C4%B1-il%C9%99-g%C3%B6r%C3%BC%C5%9F%C9%99-bilm%C9%99yib/29929172.html

https://www.amerikaninsesi.org/a/v%D3%99kil-%D3%99fqan-muxtarl%C4%B1-il%D3%99-g%C3%B6r%C3%BC%C5%9F%C9%99-burax%C4%B1lmad%C4%B1%C4%9F%C4%B1n%C4%B1-deyir/4909110.html

http://gozetci.az/en/reports/223/

Categories: Arrest/detention/interrogation; Other Serious Issues

Source of violation: police/state security;

Journalists call for removal of travel bans

3 May 2019 – A group of journalists facing traveling bans, have called on the authorities to remove their travel bans reported Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe.

Journalists gathered outside the Prosecutor General Office for Grave Crimes Investigations holding signs that called to stop the travel bans.

Travel bans were imposed some four years ago, when a criminal investigation was launched against independent Meydan TV.

Journalists who collaborated with Meydan TV only for brief time, are also facing the travel ban.

The group of journalists was then invited to speak with the Prosecutor General Chief Crime Investigation Unit and were promised that their travel bans are going to be lifted in due course, however, were not given any specific time frame.

Background:

Meydan TV was set up in 2013. Its Baku bureau was closed in December 2014, in anticipation of shutdown and raid fears. Shortly after, journalists who collaborated with the outlet were called into questioning at the Prosecutor General Chief Crime Investigation Unit and at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Department for Combating Organized Crime.

The criminal investigation against Meydan TV on the grounds of committing illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power still continues.

So far, travel ban against only one journalist has been lifted, and that was because the journalist, Aynur Elgunesh requested removal to receive medical treatment due to health reasons.

Updates:

13 May 2019 – Two more journalists Sevinc Vagifgizi and Elnur Mukhtar had their travel bans lifted, reported Vagifgizi via her Facebook profile.

7 May 2019 – Travel bans against three more journalists Aytan Farhadova, Aytac Ahmadova and Tural Asadli were lifted, reported Azerbaijan service for Radio Free Europe.

6 May 2019 – Travel bans against three journalists and one writer were removed reported independent Meydan TV.

Three journalists:  Izolda Agayeva, Salima Jalilova, Natig Javadli, and writer Rasim Garaja had their travel bans lifted.

Links:

https://www.azadliq.org/a/jurnalistl%C9%99r-stop-a-stop-dedil%C9%99r/29919106.html

https://basta2.com/az/2019/05/03/olk%C9%99d%C9%99n-cixisina-qadaga-qoyulan-jurnalistl%C9%99r-aksiya-kecirdi/

http://www.operativ.tv/jurnalistlr-stop-a-stop-dedilr-foto.html

https://www.meydan.tv/az/article/olkeden-cixisina-qadaga-qoyulan-jurnalistler-etiraz-aksiyasi-kecirib/?ref=article-related-artciles

https://meydan.tv/az/article/meydan-tv-ile-emekdasliq-etmis-daha-4-neferin-serhed-qadagasi-goturuldu/?ref=homepage-news

https://www.azadliq.org/a/daha-%C3%BC%C3%A7-jurnalistin-stopu-g%C3%B6t%C3%BCr%C3%BCl%C3%BCb/29926783.html

https://www.amerikaninsesi.org/a/daha-%C3%BC%C3%A7-jurnalistin-xaric%C9%99-%C3%A7%C4%B1x%C4%B1%C5%9F%C4%B1na-qada%C4%9Fa-g%C3%B6t%C3%BCr%C3%BCl%C3%BCb/4907182.html

http://www.turan.az/ext/news/2019/5/free/Social/az/80795.htm

Categories: Legal measures; Blocked access.

Source of violation: Police/state security; Government/state agency/public official/political party; Court/judicial

Journalist arrested on drug possession charges

1 May 2019 – Journalist Shafag Agajan was detained during a police raid in the capital of Azerbaijan, reported independent, Berlin-based Meydan TV.

Agajan, is the head of Bakupress, National News Agency.

According to police reports, Agajan was detained during a police raid against illegal drug sales across from a local hospital located in Baku.  

Agajan refutes all the claims, and said it is a measure taken against her, by the authorities,  after her news agency, published a story about Ali Hasanov, the presidential aide and his direct influence in the sale of drugs at local pharmacies.

Agajan, was sentenced to three months in pre-trial detention on May 3. Following the court decision, Agajan said she is going on a hunger strike in protest against the court ruling.

Links:

http://bakupress.az/az/newss/10574/eli-hesenov-apteklerde-psixotrop-dermanlarin-satisina-havadarliq-edir-video

https://sputnik.az/incidents/20190502/420261392/jurnalist-hebs-edildi.html

https://www.meydan.tv/en/article/sefeq-agacan-etiraz-olaraq-bu-gunden-acliq-aksiyasina-baslayiram/

https://d9mc3ts4czbpr.cloudfront.net/az/article/narkotik-satmaqda-subheli-bilinen-bas-redaktor-saxlanilib/?ref=homepage-news

Categories: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation; Criminal Charges/Fines/Sentences; Legal Measures

Source of violation: Police/state security; Court/judicial;

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