Azerbaijan's regime is taking motion towards vital journalists | EUROtoday

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Shahin Rzajev acquired off frivolously: a court docket had truly imposed 15 days of administrative detention on the journalist who was arrested on January fifteenth. The editor of the impartial information website JAMNews swore when he was arrested and was subsequently responsible of petty hooliganism, in keeping with the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry. But in a single day the court docket modified the sentence: the jail sentence was transformed right into a nice of the equal of $30. Rzajev, who denies the accusations, was allowed to go residence.

The launch of the editor stays the exception in Azerbaijan in the intervening time: President Ilham Aliyev has been subjecting the final impartial media within the Caucasus republic to a sequence of arrests for greater than two months. At least 13 journalists have been arrested up to now, and eleven have been ordered detained for as much as 4 months. If convicted, they face lengthy jail sentences. Observers converse of the most important blow to Azerbaijan's journalists since 2014, when Aliyev largely destroyed the free press within the South Caucasus republic after his second re-election. This time too, the repressive measures are associated to an election cycle: early presidential elections, which had been initially scheduled for 2025, will happen in Azerbaijan on Wednesday. Critical reporting is undesirable.

“We are very concerned”

The repression started in mid-November final 12 months with the arrests of Uvli Hasanli and Mahamad Kekalov. The managing director of Abzas Media and the incapacity rights activist who cooperates with the medium are accused of smuggling in overseas foreign money. This carries a jail sentence of as much as eight years. During a raid on the editorial workplace, the safety authorities allegedly discovered 40,000 euros. Hasanli objected that the cash had been foisted on him. With the arrest, Ilham Aliyev is responding to analysis into corruption within the presidential household, in keeping with an announcement from the media. Abzas Media had reported, amongst different issues, on the preferential awarding of profitable building contracts within the conquered Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to corporations owned by the top of state's daughters. Four months of pre-trial detention had been ordered for Hasanli and Kekalov, in addition to editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi, who was additionally arrested. Medium staff had been interrogated. Six journalists from Abzas Media at the moment are in custody.

The strike towards the media was accompanied by an anti-Western marketing campaign in Azerbaijan's state-controlled media. Abzas Media is financed by the USA and acts on behalf of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), it stated. The journalists had been engaged in espionage. “When will the hunt for them begin?” state broadcaster AzTV requested. At the top of November the battle reached the worldwide degree.

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of the USA, France and Germany. In the talks, Baku protested towards the (alleged) unlawful financing of Abzas Media by organizations from the three international locations, in keeping with a press assertion from the Foreign Ministry. The German embassy in Baku rejected the allegations and significantly pointed to the state of affairs of Mahamad Kekalov. “We are very concerned about the allegations against Mr. Kekalov and expect a fair trial for him,” it stated in an announcement.

The widest attain impartial channel

The authoritarian regime didn't simply goal Abzas Media. Aziz Orujow, founder and managing director of the impartial web broadcaster Kanal 13, has additionally been in custody for the reason that finish of November. He is accused of constructing a home with out permission. He faces as much as three years in jail. Oruyov's station is taken into account Azerbaijan's most widely-reaching impartial channel on YouTube and has greater than 1.6 million followers. Two different media staff had been additionally arrested.

In addition, enterprise journalist Hafis Babaly from Azerbaijan's oldest impartial information company Turan was positioned in pre-trial detention for 3 months in mid-December. In addition, since December, the authorities have used the accusation of “blackmail” to arrest the heads of the channel Kanal 11, the information web sites Azerinfo and Ddunyaninsesi, and the newspaper “Gundelik Baki”. If convicted, you possibly can withstand 5 years in jail.

In addition, there have been two assaults on journalists in neighboring Georgia in December, which had been allegedly carried out by the regime in Baku. As the American overseas broadcaster Voice of America experiences, unknown folks broke into the house of the American freelancer Alexander Thatcher and stole his passport. Thatcher had previously reported critically on Azerbaijan's warfare over Nagorno-Karabakh. The editor-in-chief of the Internet platform Avazor TV Eladdin Shamilzade, who emigrated from Azerbaijan, was threatened with a knife by three unknown males in a bar and harassed with questions on Azerbaijan.