New military action against Armenia received with opposition
On 20th September 2022, Ahmad Mammadli, the 21-year-old leader of the pro-democracy group Democracy-1918 (D18), was arrested and held in police custody for 30 days. The police cited Mammadli's opposition to carrying out police orders as the reason for his detention. Mammadli and the D18 Movement have openly criticised the Azerbaijani government's decision to continue military operations against Armenia, with Mammadli calling for peace during the recent conflict. The D18 Movement believes that the Azerbaijani government is suppressing fundamental freedoms and democracy and has called for the punishment of President Ilham Aliyev for the crimes he has committed. Mammadli was released on 20th October 2022, and the Democracy 1918 Movement held a press conference to address his illegal detention and the decision to take him to serve military service while enrolled at a university. The Movement representatives believe that Mammadli's arrest was politically motivated.
On 13th September 2022, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh province escalated once again. This time, Azeri authorities launched attacks on several Armenian positions, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. According to reports, Azeri soldiers also attacked Armenian towns on the border with Azerbaijan. As a result of these military operations, many people voiced their opposition to the decision to initiate a new military action against Armenia, advocating against the war. However, shortly after the first critical opinions surfaced, some individuals labelled those against the war as traitors and launched a smear campaign against them. People who campaigned against the war were publicly stigmatised and vilified.
In February 2022, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to create a Media Registry, and in September 2022, approved the rules regulating the Register. The Registry will be managed by the Media Development Agency and will contain data not only about media institutions but also personal data of journalists or their financial records. Those included in the Register receive a journalist certificate, allowing them to carry out journalistic activity. Media experts believe that the authorities will use this Registry to accumulate data on journalists' activities rather than to regulate the media field. Notably however, journalists working outside the country will face difficulties disseminating information that does not come from official sources, as access to such data will be restricted to those not included in the Register.
In sperate developments, Bakhtiyar Gadjiev, an Azeri activist, was detained for almost four hours by law enforcement for a critical post he made on social media about the Minister of Internal Affairs. Gadjiev alleges that he was beaten and subjected to physical and psychological pressure while in police custody. This incident is not uncommon in Azerbaijan, where criticism of public authorities can lead to intimidation and detention. Non-governmental organisations have raised concerns about the precarious situation of freedom of expression and the weak protection of human rights in Azerbaijan.
Civic Space Developments