Threats to Journalists: Azerbaijan
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- In March 2012, Khadija Ismailova, a freelancer for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was targeted in a blackmail effort. Ismailova received an envelope in the mail containing photos of a personal nature and a note saying, “Whore, behave. Or you will be defamed.” Click here to view the press release.
- In August 2011, RFE/RL Azerbaijini Service correspondent Yafez Hasanov was abducted by state security agents and warned him against pursuing his report an alleged government murder. If he returned to Azerbaijan in less than a month, his abductors threatened that “it would cost him.” He was able to return to Baku on September 1, 2011. Click here to view the press release for this incident.
- On March 13, two officers of Azerbaijan’s National Security Department visited the RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service Bureau in Baku to talk to VOA Azerbaijani stringer Tapdig Guliyev, who uses the Bureau to file his reports. The two security officials first represented themselves as journalists to the receptionist, but then introduced themselves to the VOA stringer as officers of the National Security Department. They told him it was their job to protect foreign journalists and local journalists who work for foreign media outlets. They said they sought out Guliyev because they deemed him to be the most experienced journalist at the bureau. They said they wanted to caution the journalists at the RFE/RL bureau to be careful when conducting their business, noting Armenia and Iran would probably try to incite disturbances in Azerbaijan during the upcoming Azerbaijani presidential elections. They told our stringer that visiting journalists should be cautious, and that their Security Department would protect them. They urged Guliyev to inform the Security Department about any foreign journalists arriving in Baku. He refused to provide this information, and the two security officers left the bureau. T he next day (March 14), Guliyev and RFE/RL Bureau Chief Natig Zeynelov met with the U.S. Embassy’s security chief, who urged them to be careful. On March 22, the U.S. Embassy’s media specialist called VOA’s stringer to let him know that the Embassy had contacted Azerbaijan’s Ministry of National Security and that it was investigating the incident. On March 24, another officer from the Azerbaijan National Security Department visited our stringer and RFE/RL’s bureau chief, letting them know about the investigation. He told them that “as citizens of Azerbaijan, they should have reported the incident directly to the Ministry of National Security.” After being shown pictures, our stringer identified one of the two security officers who visited the bureau on March 13, and the security officer left RFE/RL bureau without further comment. There have been no new developments since then. Guliyev and Zeynelov will keep the U.S. Embassyinformed, and VOA’s Near East and Central Asia Division will be updating Dan Austin and the IBB Office of Security, as needed.
- Access to the website of RFE/RL’s Azeri service was blocked intermittently for several days in early March, 2010 following the service’s publication of a report, originally published in the “Washington Post,” on property holdings in Dubai belonging to members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family. Access was blocked on the country’s main internet providers at approximately 6:00 pm, prime-time, from March 5 to March 9.
- Nakhichevan-based RFE/RL Azeri Service correspondents Malahat Nasibova and Ilgar Nasibov were summoned to the local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) on December 28, 2009 and told to sign a warrant regarding an incident they reported on December 15. They were released two hours later, after RFE/RL’s Baku Bureau Chief intervened with phone calls to the MIA in Baku and MIA in Nakhchivan. The Nasibovs had also been summoned to the MIA on December 23 to discuss the case, and had been told that they would be accused of slander if they didn’t withdraw their complaint. Nasibov had been attacked by a mob of approximately 40 students and injured on December 15 after he and colleagues of the Resource Center in Nakhichevan had conducted a survey on corruption. MIA officials in Nakhichevan refused to file their complaint, and hospitals refused Nasibov medical care. On December 18, the Nasibovs were summoned to the MIA and questioned. That same day, the MIA issued a statement accusing Nasibov of lying about the attack and, together with his wife, working for foreign powers and betraying the motherland.
- The Police Chief of Ganja’s Kapaz region summoned RFE/RL correspondent Gulnar Kazimova and her husband to the police department on November 5, 2009 for “a preventive conversation” offering no explanation for the talk. Two days earlier, Kazimova had reported about a standoff between the police and a group of Muslims who were protesting the closure of a mosque and a new ban placed on the call for prayer. Kazimova filmed the scuffle for a few minutes before police told her to stop, confiscating her camera and deleting the video. Kazimova was later able to restore some parts of the video that the Azeri service then posted on its web-site.
- RFE/RL freelance correspondent Gulnur Ragifgizi was summoned to the city police department in Ganja on May 14, 2009 after reporting on a story about abuses in the Ganja City Orphanage. The summons was in response to a complaint filed by the director of the orphanage, who was present during the questioning. Gulnur was told to name her sources and warned she’d be punished for the report. She left after two hours without disclosing any information
- Correspondent Malahat Nasibova received a death threat by telephone on January 29, 2009 after trying to investigate cases involving the disappearance and psychiatric confinement of several citizens. Previously, on 27 August 2008, Nasibova and her husband, Ilgar, were attacked by a mob that was incited by police while the pair was interviewing villagers at a market in the Nakhichevani village of Nehram. Their equipment was broken. Having first denied any incident, local authorities approached the Nasibovs in September together with village officials to offer an apology.
- RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service freelance correspondents Ilgar and Malahat Nasibov were attacked by a mob at a market in Nakhichevan in August 2008 while they were interviewing villagers about a recent ban prohibiting groups of two or more from gathering in any public space. The mob, incited by local police, beat them and broke their equipment. Local police, at the urging of village elders, issued a public apology to the Nasibovs several days later. Previously, Ilgar Nasibov was sentenced to 90 days in jail December 6, 2007. Local police had filed libel charges against him in November, after he complained about police brutality. On December 10, Nasibov was tried for a second libel allegation but under international pressure, local authorities released Nasibov from prison and suspended his sentence for one year.. The Azerbaijani Supreme Court heard his appeal in early 2008 and upheld the sentence.