Azerbaijan: Press freedom violations October 2019


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.

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Several Journalists detained and beaten during protests

19 October 2019 – Multiple media outlets reported the arrest and assault of journalists during an unsanctioned rally against corruption and low wages in Baku.

Journalists detained during the rally included Gulnaz Gambarli, Nurlan Libre (Gahramanli), Farid Ismayilov, Mehin Kerimi, Abulfat Bakhshali, Vugar Mirzabay and Fatima Movlamli, as well as blogger Mehman Huseynov. All were released shortly after.

According to the independent reporter Ulviyya Ali, Nurlan Libre was assaulted in the police car after being detained at the rally. At least three journalists were reported to have sustained minor injuries as a result of police actions: Sevinc Vagifqizi sustained bruises on her arms, while Ramin Deko and Shahla Abbasova also sustained minor injuries. Journalist Tazakhan Miralamli was held at the police station for more than four hours. None of the journalists filed complaints against the police.

More than 80 people were reportedly arrested during the protests in October, including at least eight journalists.

Limitation to media freedom: arrest/detention/interrogation; property damage; physical assault

Source of violation: public/state security;



Journalist Seymur Hezi arrested ahead of protests

17 October 2019 – Meydan TV journalist Seymur Hezi was arrested while leaving his house in Baku two days before a scheduled protest, Hezi’s wife Nigar told the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention for alleged hooliganism and noncompliance with police orders. Hazi was reportedly intending to cover the protests, which were due to take place on 19 October.

The arrest came less than two months after the journalist was released from prison, where he served 5 years on charges of hooliganism. Hazi was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. The European Court of Human Rights had ruled that his detention was illegal.


29 October 2019 – Azadliq Radio reported that Seymur Hezi was sentenced to an additional 15 days in administrative detention.

17 November 2019 – Azadliq Radio reported that Seymur Hezi was released.

Limitation to media freedom: arrest/detention/interrogation;

Source of violation: court/judicial



Arson attempt on journalist Javid Shiraliyev’s house 

16 October 2019 – Online news site reported that’s editor, Javid Shiraliyev, was the victim of an attempted arson attack. His house was set on fire in the early hours of 16 October. had previously published a series of stories about corruption in Azerbaijan.

Shiraliyev said that despite the family being at home at the time of the incident, no one was injured. He had reported the incident to the police.

Shiraliyev said he believed that the attack was in retaliation for the series of stories his outlet published about corruption and local governance violations in Masalli administrative district.


Limitation to media freedom: property damage;

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Azerbaijan: Press freedom violations July 2019


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.

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Editor detained during border crossing

31 July 2019 – Editor of an online website Agil Mahmudov was detained while crossing the Azerbaijan-Georgia border independent Turan news agency reported. 

Mahmudov was informed that a travel ban has been imposed against the journalist by the Ministry of the Interior. 

The reason for the imposed travel ban is reportedly Mahmudov’s administrative arrest in 2018. 

Mahmudov said the ban was absolutely illegal as he completed the full sentence which was twenty days. The journalist plans to appeal the travel ban. 


Categories: arrest/detention/interrogation; 

Sources of violation: government/state agency/public official/political party; 

Editor now allowed to leave the country


3 August 2019 – Travel ban on the journalist Parviz Hashimli was reportedly lifted according to independent Turan news agency. 

Hashimli, said, he was informed via a phone call from the Baku city prosecutor office. 

30 July 2019 – Former political prisoner, journalist and editor of an online news site Parviz Hashimli, was prevented from leaving the country reported independent Turan news agency. 

Hashimli was stopped while crossing Azerbaijan-Russia border and informed his travel ban imposed last year was still valid. 

Hashimli has appealed to remove the travel ban in May. 


Categories: criminal charges/fines/sentences; subpoena/court order/lawsuit

Sources of violation: government/state agency/public official/political party

Police disperse journalists during a protest

Seymur Hezi was arrested in August 2014. He was subsequently convicted of aggravated hooliganism and sentenced to five years in prison.

Journalist Seymur Hezi was arrested in August 2014. He was subsequently convicted of aggravated hooliganism and sentenced to five years in prison.

22 July 2019 – 22 July marked National Press day in Azerbaijan. A group of journalists gathered outside the press council offices in the capital Baku reported independent Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan service for Radio Free Europe. 

The group first gathered outside the ministry of internal affairs and then moved to the headquarters of the press council office calling to end persecution of journalists in the country and immediate release of journalists Afgan Mukhtarli and Seymur Hezi. 

Police dispersed the group and briefly detained one reporter from online TV channel Kanal 13.

The group did manage to meet with the spokeperson for the press council and asked him why there the council it not pressurising authorities to release journalists. The spokeperson, said, the council has not received any official complaint from the journalists about their difficult working conditions or imprisoned journalists. 


Categories: arrest/detention/interrogation; 

Source of violation: police/state security 

Website DDoSed (virtual road)

18 July 2019 – Exiled news media platform was knocked offline. The site became unreachable and its domain name was no longer available, according to Qurium, that supports a number of DDoSed websites in Azerbaijan. 

Following detailed analysis, Qurium Media Foundation was able to confirm that the website was indeed DDoSed. 


Categories: ddos/hacking/doxing; 

Source of violation: unknown

Journalist summoned for questioning

3 July 2019 – Anar Mammadov, editor for online news site, was called in for questioning by police, Azadliq Radio reported. 

In an interview with the outlet, Mammadov said that the police wanted to speak to him about two articles the website he is managing published recently. 

The first article is about a robbery and the inability of the local police officers to solve the crime. The second article is about the alleged thief, who was arrested and released the following day. 

Mammadov told Azadliq Radio that during the questioning police officers were polite but said that Mammadov was biased and was unjust to law enforcement.

Azadliq Radio is the Azerbaijan service for Radio Free Europe.


18 March 2019 – Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced Anar Mammadov, editor of an independent news website 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. 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 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.


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

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Periodismo en el exilio: Un editor presiona al Gobierno de Azerbaiyán a través de las redes sociales


Rahim Haciyev, el entonces editor jefe del periódico azerbaiyano Azadliq, aceptando el
Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en el Periodismo de Index on Censorship en 2014 (Foto: Alex Brenner para Index on Censorship)

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La  noche  que Rahim  Haciyev aceptó el Premio  a la Libertad de Expresión  en el Periodismo de Index on  Censorship, sostuvo en alto un ejemplar  del periódico que perseveró pese a las agresiones  del Gobierno cuyas fechorías sacaba a la luz. Corría marzo  de 2014, y Haciyev, editor jefe en funciones del periódico independiente  azerbaiyano Azadliq, estaba sobre un escenario de Londres. Triunfante, declaró: “El  equipo de redacción está decidido a continuar este trabajo sagrado: servir a la verdad.  Porque ese es el sentido de lo que hacemos y el sentido de nuestras vidas”.

Cuatro  meses más tarde,  esta misión se veía  comprometida por amenazas,  arrestos y restricciones económicas  a causa de su labor informativa sobre  la corrupción del Gobierno. No era la primera  vez que Azadliq sufría presiones económicas por parte  de sus distribuidores, respaldados por el Gobierno del ya  cuatro veces reelegido líder de Azerbaiyán, Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev  lleva mucho tiempo enfrentándose a acusaciones de autoritarismo y supresión de  todo signo de disidencia desde que asumió el cargo en 2003.

Pero  los meses  de multas que  ascendían a casi  57.000 euros y los  arrestos en aumento acabaron  por aplastar al periódico, que  suspendió su edición impresa en julio  de 2014. El columnista Seymur Hezi, compañero  de Haciyev, permanece en prisión—por “vandalismo grave”  tras defenderse de una agresión—, al igual que tantos otros miembros  de la sociedad civil y los medios independientes. El Gobierno ignoró las protestas  sociales generalizadas.

Hasta  la fecha,  el Índice de  Libertad de Prensa  de Reporteros sin Fronteras  ha documentado 165 periodistas encarcelados  actualmente en Azerbaiyán. La base de datos  de Mapping Media Freedom (MMF) informa cada mes  sobre el acoso que ejerce la exrepública soviética sobre  toda expresión de discrepancia. Solo en julio de 2018, MMF documentó  el bloqueo por el Gobierno de cuatro páginas de la oposición por diseminar falsa  información, el interrogatorio a manos de las autoridades de dos editores de informativos  independientes y el arresto de un periodista por desobedecer a la policía.

En  diciembre  de 2017, un  tribunal supremo  de Azerbaiyán confirmó  el bloqueo de las páginas  de cinco organizaciones independientes  de comunicación, incluida, en activo  desde marzo  de 2017. Haciyev  criticó la medida por  suponer una limitación más para el  pueblo azerbaiyano a la hora de acceder  a información objetiva.

Desde  su exilio  en Europa occidental,  iniciado en 2017, declaró  para Index: “Cuatro empleados  de nuestra web están en prisión,  acusados de vandalismo y transacciones financieras  ilegales. Los arrestaron a todos con cargos falsos.  Todos esos cargos se los inventaron”.

Haciyev  dirige la  página de Facebook del  periódico desde el extranjero,  mientras la web se mantiene actualizada  y accesible para los lectores de fuera  de Azerbaiyán. Sobre el estado actual de la  libertad de expresión en su país, dijo: “La situación  en el país es muy complicada. Las autoridades siguen oprimiendo  a la gente con mentalidad democrática. Los arrestos de activistas  políticos y periodistas continúan”.

Haciyev  habló con  Shreya Parjan,  de Index, sobre  la situación actual.

Index:  ¿Es Azadliq  el único en el  punto de mira? ¿Por  qué consideran a la publicación una  amenaza para el Gobierno?

Hajiyev: No  podemos  decir que  Azadliq haya  sido la única  en sufrir represión. Las autoridades  azerbaiyanas son muy corruptas y no  toleran críticas de sus oponentes. Los  regímenes corruptos y represivos del mundo  sofocan la libertad de expresión. En este sentido,  las autoridades azerbaiyanas, especialmente en los últimos  años, se han situado en el ranking de las más represivas del  mundo.

Index:  ¿Qué es  lo que te  llevó a abandonar  Azerbaiyán definitivamente?  ¿Fue un proceso difícil?

Hajiyev:  El  periódico  cesó su actividad  en septiembre de 2012.  Las autoridades no han permitido  que se publique Azadliq. Aquella  vez dejaron en paz la sede del periódico.  Yo me quedé en el país un tiempo. Lamento haber  tenido que dejar el país

por  la fuerte  presión de las  autoridades. Mi  compañero siguió dirigiendo  la web y la página de Facebook  del periódico. Por supuesto que es  un proceso difícil. Verse obligado a  dejar el país [es un] asunto muy desagradable.  Tuve que vérmelas con muchos problemas. Sin embargo,  continué trabajando.

Index: ¿Cómo  has sido capaz  de continuar tu trabajo  y propugnar el cambio desde  el exilio?

Hajiyev:  Ahora  mismo, aún  en el exilio,  sigo dirigiendo la  web y la página de Facebook  del periódico. Al no estar en  el país, uso las redes sociales activamente.  Por un lado, recabo información; por otro, la  distribuyo. Las redes sociales ayudan a organizar  el trabajo y llevarlo a cabo. Nuestra página de Facebook  es una de las

más  populares  del país, y  estoy orgulloso  de nuestro logro.

Index: ¿Puedes  nombrar alguna comunidad  de apoyo que hayas conocido  en el exilio? ¿Qué obligación tienen  los periodistas extranjeros de colaborar  y apoyarse mutuamente en tiempos de crisis?

Hajiyev: Es  importante  que los periodistas  que se encuentran en  el extranjero se comuniquen  entre ellos. Sería útil compartir  experiencias e información. Estaría  muy bien

poder  transmitir  el trabajo de  periodistas locales.

Index: ¿Cómo  crees que la  brutal campaña contra  la libertad digital se  contrapone a la narrativa  del Gobierno de un Azerbaiyán  moderno y libre?

Hajiyev:  En  Azerbaiyán  hay un régimen  político que reprime enérgicamente  la libertad de expresión. Según el Índice  de Libertad de Prensa de Reporteros sin Fronteras,  Azerbaiyán ocupa el puesto 163. Ahora mismo el país  está pasando por uno de los periodos más difíciles de su  historia. Los derechos y libertades de la ciudadanía hace mucho  que solo tienen valor nominal. Actualmente hay más de 160 prisioneros  políticos.


Journalism in Exile: Editor uses social media to pressure Azerbaijan’s government



Rahim Haciyev, then acting editor-in-chief of Azerbaijani newspaper Azadliq in accpting the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Journalism Award in 2014 (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

On the night that Rahim Haciyev accepted the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Guardian Journalism Award, he held aloft a copy of the paper that persevered despite assaults from the government whose misdoings it exposed. It was March 2014 and Haciyev, acting editor-in-chief of independent Azerbaijani newspaper Azadliq, was on stage in London. Triumphantly, he declared: “The newspaper team is determined to continue this sacred job – serving the truth. Because this is the meaning of what we do and the meaning of our lives.”

Four months later, this mission was compromised by threats, arrests and financial constraints for reporting on government corruption. It was not the first time Azadliq experienced economic pressure from its government-backed distributors under Azerbaijan’s now four-term leader, Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev has long faced accusations of authoritarian rule and suppressing dissent since taking office in 2003.

But months of fines surpassing £50,000 and mounting arrests overwhelmed the paper, which suspended its print edition in July 2014. Among other members of civil society and the independent media, Haciyev’s colleague, columnist Seymur Hezi, remains imprisoned for “aggravated hooliganism” after defending himself from a physical assault. The public’s widespread protest went unheard by the government.

As of this year, Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index has documented that 165 journalists are currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan. Monthly, the Mapping Media Freedom database features reports on the former Soviet republic’s assault on dissenting speech. In July 2018 alone, MMF documented four opposition websites blocked by the government for spreading misinformation, two editors of independent news outlets questioned by authorities and one journalist arrested for disobeying the police.

In December 2017 a high court in Azerbaijan upheld the blockage of five independent media organisations’ websites, including, active since March 2017. Haciyev criticised this move as further inhibiting the Azerbaijani people’s ability to access objective information.

Living in exile in western Europe since 2017, he told Index: “Four employees of our site are in prison. Our employees who are in prison were accused of hooliganism and illegal financial transactions. All of them were arrested on trumped-up charges. All the charges were fabricated.”

Haciyev oversees the paper’s Facebook page from abroad, while the website remains updated and accessible to readers outside Azerbaijan. Regarding the current status of free expression back home, he said: “The situation in the country is very difficult. The authorities continue to oppress democratically minded people. Arrests of political activists and journalists continue.”

Haciyev spoke with Index’s Shreya Parjan about the ongoing situation.

Index: Is Azadliq alone as a target? Why was the publication perceived as such a threat to the government?

Hajiyev: We can not say that only Azadliq was subjected to repression. Azerbaijani authorities are very corrupt and cannot tolerate criticism from their opponents. The corrupt and repressive regimes around the world suppress freedom of speech. In this regard, the Azerbaijani authorities, especially in recent years, have been in the ranks of the world’s most repressive.

Index: What ultimately made you decide to leave Azerbaijan and how difficult was the process?

Hajiyev: The newspaper ceased its operations in September 2012. The authorities have not allowed Azadliq to be published. At that time, they left the site of the newspaper. I stayed in the country for some time. I regret that I had to leave the country after the very strong pressure of the authorities. My colleague continued to lead the website and the Facebook page of the newspaper. Of course it is a difficult process. To be forced to leave the country [is a] very unpleasant affair. I had to endure a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, I continued the business.

Index: While in exile, how have you been able to continue your work and advocate for change?

Hajiyev: At this time in exile, I continue to guide the website and the Facebook page of the newspaper. Being outside the country, I actively use social networking. On the one hand, I gather information, on the other hand, I distribute it. Social networks help organise and conduct work. Our Facebook page is one of the most popular in the country, and I am proud of our achievement.

Index: Could you identify any supportive communities you have encountered with while in exile? What obligation do foreign journalists have to collaborate and support one another in times of crisis?

Hajiyev: Communication between journalists who are abroad is important. To share experiences and information would be useful. It would be very nice to be able to communicate work by local journalists.

Index: How does the crackdown on digital freedom oppose the government narrative of a modern, free Azerbaijan?

Hajiyev: In Azerbaijan, there is a political regime that strongly suppresses freedom of speech. According to the index of freedom of speech, composed Reporters Without Borders, Azerbaijan occupies the 163rd place. Azerbaijan is currently undergoing one of the most difficult times in its history. The rights and freedoms of citizens have long been of nominal character. There are now more than 160 political prisoners.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content”][vc_column][three_column_post title=”Global Journalist / Project Exile” full_width_heading=”true” category_id=”22142″][/vc_column][/vc_row]