CSOs call for Azeri authorities to stop the persecution of independent journalists

CSOs call for Azeri authorities to stop the persecution of independent journalists

Expression

Afgan Sadygov health condition worsened after 34 days of hunger strike

Afghan Sadygov, the chief editor of the independent news website Azel.tv, was detained by law enforcement in May 2020. According to details provided by the authorities, confirmed by the non-governmental organizations for the protection of journalists' rights, Sadygov was accused of taking a bribe and detained for four months during the investigation. According to the official sources, the bribe was allegedly offered by a representative of the local public authorities so that Afghan Sadygov and Sakit Muradov, chief editor of the pro-government news website Xeberfakt.az, did not publish details about a journalistic investigation involving acts of corruption by officials.

A few days after his detention, Sakit Muradov admitted to taking bribes and was released on parole. Afghan Sadygov has denied the allegations. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the Azerbaijani authorities to release Afghan Sadygov in a statement posted on their website. The text of the Statement also presents other details regarding the journalist's detention. Immediately after he was detained, his apartment was searched, and the police took over several electronic equipment used by journalists in his activity. In November, the journalist's case returned to the public's attention. The court decided to deprive the journalist of his liberty for seven years. Immediately after the sentence was pronounced, Afghan Sadygov went on a hunger strike. On December 7, 2020, the journalist's lawyer announced that his client's health condition worsened even more after 34 days of hunger strike. Before that, the journalist’s lawyer asked for the release. The demand was denied.

The media NGOs are calling the Azeri authorities to stop the persecution of the independent journalists and to respect human rights. Another Azerbaijani journalist was sentenced to 16 years in prison, being accused of espionage in favour of foreign forces. Poland Aslanov, the chief editor of the independent news websites Xeberman and Press-az, claims that he is innocent, and the accusations brought against him are related to his journalistic activity. He also declared hunger strike in sigh of protests against illegal allegations. According to IFEX, the journalist was detained on the border with Iran with his wife and daughter. They were travelling in private interest. The journalist was accused of espionage and high treason, more precisely for "conspiring to sell secret information to foreign governments and publishing anti-government statements online". According to the statements of the detained journalist and his relatives, Poland Aslanov was just about to publish a journalistic investigation in the field of tourism. His work contained evidence of the involvement of high-ranking officials in acts of corruption.

Association

Azeri authorities introduced changes to the law on NGOs

The Azerbaijani government has issued a decree that provides several amendments to the law on NGOs in this country. According to Azernews, the Baku executive soon issued a note clarifying some issues related more to the financial accounting records of contracts signed by NGOs with service providers or donors. Also, the new amendments provide new regulations in what regards sending of documents referring to the amendment of the constitutive documents to the authorities in electronic format. Previously, only physical copies of documents were accepted

Peaceful Assembly

One year of detention for an Azeri opposition party member

In July 2020, several protests erupted in Azerbaijan. The events took place in the context of the escalating conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. Thus, on July 16, 2020, several people, including representatives of the opposition, tried to put pressure on the authorities to resume military operations for Nagorno Karabakh. The protests escalated into violence between participants and law enforcement. Several protesters were detained during the rallies. Authorities motivated the detention actions through the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. A few months after protests unfolded in the public’s attention, the case of a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP), Mahammad Imanli, came again in the public eye. According to Radio Free Europe, Imanli was sentenced to one year in prison for participating in unsanctioned protests. Prosecutors have proposed 18 months of detention. Mahammad Imanli claims that he was arrested on July 16, 2020, after which he was detained for four days by the authorities. During this period he was interrogated several times. The prosecutor claimed that Imanli clashed with the police officers and injured some of them. The defendant also added that his trial is politically motivated because he is a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP).