Azerbaijan draws criticism for journalists’ arrests

By bne IntelliNews December 6, 2016

Azerbaijani authorities should stop curtailing media freedom after they arrested three journalists and blocked two leading news websites over the past week and strengthened its draconian censorship laws, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on December 5.

Azerbaijan is deemed “not free” by various global freedom indices, including the Freedom House's Freedom in the World index. Baku has toughened its crackdown on democratic freedoms since 2014, although it would occasionally relax it when international criticism mounts and threatens to affect its interests abroad.

Since November 22, three journalists have been arrested in three different cities - Jalilabad, in the southeast, Barda in the centre of the country and the capital city of Baku, RSF said. Two of the reporters arrested, Afgan Sadykhov and Teymur Kerimov, were investigating infrastructure and utility stories, while the third, Zamin Haji, was summoned to a police station after posting a Facebook message that was critical of the government. Ironically, the message was a rhetorical musing on the state of justice in the country after four prominent cases in which intellectuals (writers, historians and journalists) had been murdered in the past remained unsolved.

“We condemn the harassment of Afgan Sadykhov, Teymur Kerimov and Zamin Gadji, the latest victims of this constant persecution. The international community must stop allowing the Azerbaijani regime to act with impunity and ask it to address its systematic violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” RSF wrote in its statement. 

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