Human Rights Watch calls on Azerbaijani authorities to stop attacks on freedom of speech
HRW demands Azerbaijan end attacks on freedom of speech
The Human Rights Watch demanded that the Azerbaijani authorities immediately put an end to threats and violence against freedom of speech. In its material, HRW points to several blatant violations of the rights of independent journalists and political activists in Azerbaijan that have recently occured.
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“Human Rights House Foundation is alarmed by the latest wave of threats and violence against journalists, human rights defenders, and activists in Azerbaijan as well as credible allegations of state involvement and the authorities’ failure to promptly bring perpetrators to justice. We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure a safe environment for journalists and other human rights defenders and ensure full accountability for those responsible for threats and violence against them”.
This was stated in an article entitled “Azerbaijan must immediately put an end to the threats and violence for the exercise of freedom of expression” published on the Human Rights Watch website.
The article emphasizes that on May 8, 2022, an unknown person attacked independent journalist Ayten Mammadova: “Mammedova is one of the few journalists covering a high-profile murder case in Ganja, Azerbaijan, where the suspect claims he was tortured by the authorities”.
The Azerbaijani civil society described the attack on Mammadova as “an attack on freedom of speech,” HRW said.
“ It is not an isolated incident. In what has become an increasingly worrisome pattern, free expression advocates, investigative journalists, and media representatives in Azerbaijan continue to face violence, threats, and ill-treatment”.
The HRW article also drew attention to several specific facts of violation of basic rights of journalists and political activists:
“According to the reports from local human rights defenders, in February 2022 independent journalists Fatima Movlamli and Sevinj Sadikhova were insulted and beaten several times while reporting in central Baku. Following these attacks, police unlawfully detained the two journalists for four hours. Movlamli is among the most targeted journalists in Azerbaijan and has been unlawfully detained, harassed, and beaten on several occasions.
In March 2022, civil society activist Imran Aliyev disappeared for 20 hours, while in the custody of the Interior Ministry’s Organised Crime Department. Imran is the founder of meclis.info, a civic initiative monitoring and reporting on the work of the Azerbaijani parliament.
A prominent activist and a former political prisoner Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has accused the Interior Ministry of orchestrating his kidnapping in April 2022. Hajiyev claims the kidnapping, and ensuing acts of alleged torture, took place to threaten him against criticising Interior Minister Vilayat Eyvazov. In previous years, in addition to illegal imprisonment, Bakhtiyar has experienced numerous incidents of harassment”.
HRW argues that free media and the open expression of opinion are crucial to the discussion and debate of ideas and a “foundation cornerstone of democracy”.
“ In Azerbaijan, the authorities continue to clamp down on the right to freedom of expression and opinion and independent civil society. Furthermore, credible reporting by civil society attributes attacks against the freedoms of expression and opinion to the authorities. These attacks, in turn, often go unpunished.
Azerbaijan remains a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a party to these treaties, Azerbaijani has an obligation to guarantee freedom of expression and the protection of human rights defenders.
Human Rights House Foundation calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to respect their international obligations, immediately put an end to threats and violence against journalists and other human rights defenders, and carry out prompt and comprehensive investigations into crimes committed against them”.