Continued protest against arrests of journalists
The action of protest in front of the US Embassy in Baku into the support of political prisoners
The editor-in-chief of the Azel TV website, Aghan Sadygov, who went on November 4th, 2020, on a hunger strike at the SIZO (pre-trial prison), is now in a comma. His health condition is critical. The information was confirmed by his wife on February 7th, 2021. According to his wife Sevinj Sadygova, the Azeri journalist has memory disturbance after three months of hunger strike. Afgan Sadigov was arrested and charged with extortion through threats in May 2020. On November 3rd, 2020 the court sentenced him to seven years in prison. Immediately after the sentence was pronounced he declared a hunger strike.
Azerbaijani journalist #PoladAslanov, sentenced to 16 years in prison for criticizing authorities in #Azerbaijan. Aslanov has been on hunger strike for 15 days in protest of his sentencing, is complaining of kidney and stomach pains, and is not receiving medical care. pic.twitter.com/RQxbXth1GC— Anzhela (@ANZHELA_YAN) March 22, 2021
Another Azeri journalist, Polad Aslanov, the chief editor of the independent news websites Xeberman and Press-az, was sentenced on November 16th, 2020 to 16 years in jail on the charge of high treason. He was charged for selling state secrets to Iran. Later, he also declared a hunger strike. On February 9, 2021, the wives of the two journalists tried to organize a support action for political prisoners in Azerbaijan, demanding greater involvement from the diplomatic representatives of the partner states during court hearings. According to the Turan news agency, the women were prevented from protesting. Police confiscated their banners and pictures of their husbands. In response, representatives of the diplomatic mission told the press that they support freedom of expression and assembly.
Interview with German Ambassador in Baku: The biggest problem for the media is the access to foreign funding
In early February 2021, the Turan News Agency in Azerbaijan published an interview with German Ambassador to Azerbaijan Wolfgang Manning in which was discussed, in particular, the situation of the Azerbaijani press. Ambassador Wolfgang Manning made several appreciations regarding the conditions in which independent journalism can develop and act in the interest of the citizens. According to the Ambassador, in countries like Azerbaijan, the biggest problem is the financial independence of the press. The second problem is that certain political circles are trying to control the press, including through the control over the advertising market. In such a situation, journalists become dependent on the authorities and their activities are difficult. The German official also stated that in a democratic country, the authorities must create conditions for the financial independence of the press.
The press and civil society must be able to access financial and technical support not only from governmental funds but to work also with foreign donors. The authorities must take these issues into account and ensure the financial independence of the media and civil society. There are too many obstacles for Azeri journalists to access foreign funding. In this sense, it is important in Azerbaijan to remove legislative barriers to the activities of the media. Also, it is important for the press to be independent and to organize free discussions to find ways of reconciliation on different topics. At the moment, the Azeri media is not able to sustain a free and inclusive debate.
Protest: The murder of a woman is political
On February 4th, 2020, a protest against domestic violence took place in Baku. According to Caucasian Knot, the motivation of the protest was triggered by the murder of a 32-year-old woman. The organizers of the protest claim that the authorities are not taking the necessary measures to stop domestic violence or violence against women. Through their inaction, the political actors turn into accomplices. Shortly after the protest began, law enforcement officials appeared and confiscated the posters of the participants in the demonstration. Consequently, the protest action dissipated. The action under the slogan "The murder of a woman is political” aimed to draw attention to domestic violence, a topic often neglected by the Azerbaijani authorities.
CSO Metter report: Azeri Civil Society in 2020 – same problems, same challenges
The European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) together with its local partner, Emin Rzayev (MG Consulting LLC), published the latest report for Azerbaijan in the CSO Metter project. According to the 2020 edition of the report, the development of civil society in 2020 was influenced by the pandemic situation, which restricted several rights, but also by several legislative amendments. These legislative amendments have been voted to minimize the risks of encouraging terrorist financing or money laundering, and NGOs are also targeted in this regard. The document confirms that NGOs still face many problems, related to the registration procedure, access to funding, participation in the process of public consultation of public policy initiatives. More details about the report can be found here.