Protesters were told that "the process is underway."
Eight journalists came out on May 3 to the building of the Investigation Department for Grave Crimes in order to demand that their names be removed from the country’s no-fly list.
Their exit ban goes back to 2017, when they were included as witnesses in the case of the opposition website Meydan TV blocked in Azerbaijan.
Head of the Department Eldar Makhmudov received the protesters and said that “work is underway” on the issue, azadliq.org reports.
The Meydan TV case
MeydanTV is an independent Azerbaijani media outlet headquartered in Berlin. The site, created in 2013, is known for its sharp criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities.
In 2015, a criminal case was opened against the site, and was accused of having violated the accreditation rules for foreign media. Several people who collaborated with MeydanTV were forced to give testimony and were put on the no-fly list.
In 2016, Meydan TV, along with several other sites, was blocked on the territory of Azerbaijan, with the officials citing “destructive actions aimed at disrupting social stability”.
Journalists who are forbidden to leave the country have repeatedly tried to challenge the exit ban.
They even filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights and won: in December 2018, the ECHR recognized the violation of rights against these people and ordered the government of Azerbaijan to pay them compensation, but the obligation has not yet been fulfilled.
Details on the demonstration
At the rally held in Baku on World Press Freedom Day, seven journalists demanded the unjust ban be lifted. The eighth participant of the action was the writer Rasim Garaj, whose cooperation with Meydan TV was limited to three articles on literature.
Protestants came to the office building with placards and chanted the slogans “Stop the stop!” and “We don’t want to be reporters with borders” [referring to the name of the well-known organization Reporters Without Borders.]
“If the authorities believe that with such restrictions they can interfere with the activities of the independent press, they are mistaken,” said one of the participants, Sevinj Vaqifqizi.
Her colleague Aynur Elgunyash said that the ban had recently been lifted from her because of her health condition, but this was preceded by numerous petitions.
Protestants attached posters brought to the wall of the building, but the police tore them down and carried them away, which provoked a clash between the police and the protesters.
Then another policeman appeared who identified himself as a representative of Azerbaijani Railways, and said that the demonstration needed to be agreed upon with the authorities in advance.
The head of the investigative department Eldar Makhmudov later met with protesters.
Journalist Natiq Javadli said his message was the following:
“We were told that the process was underway. The ban imposed on Aynur Elgunysh has already been lifted, and work is also being done on us. Probably in the coming days we will be answered. I find this encouraging. Let’s wait.”