This is a statement by independent Azerbaijan journalists organisation Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. They list the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in a list of crimes perpetrated against journalists who investigated the Azerbaijani regime:
Azerbaijani Authorities Should Put an End to Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to quit the policy of intolerance towards the freedom of speech and put an end to impunity for crimes against journalists by ensuring and guaranteeing their complete safety.
IRFS regrets that over the past twelve years, six mass media representatives, including journalists Elmar Huseynov, Alim Kazimli, Novruzali Mammadov, Rafig Tagi and Rasim Aliyev and blogger Mehman Galandarov suffered violent deaths in Azerbaijan and in five of these cases, the serious crimes that resulted in death remained completely unpunished.
“By torturing innocent journalists and arresting them on trumped-up charges, the Azerbaijani authorities in fact contribute to and promote impunity for crimes against journalists at the state level,” IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov said. “As a result of this deliberate repressive policy of the authorities, arrested blogger Mehman Galandarov died in prison in April of this year, while his mysterious and sudden death was described by the authorities as a suicide. Not long ago, in August of 2015, Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies refused to ensure the safety of late IRFS Board Chairman, journalist Rasim Aliyev, who had appealed to them to protect his life from the threats he had received. In early January of this year, law enforcement officers abducted and tortured prominent anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov, and two months later, the court sentenced him to 2 years in jail based on a defamation lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for publicly speaking about how he had been tortured. On the day when Mehman Huseynov was sentenced to imprisonment, i.e. on March 3, 2017, another freelance journalist, Ilgar Valiyev, was detained in a front-line district by Azerbaijani military servicemen and severely tortured for almost a day, and later he was forced to leave Azerbaijan. The high level of impunity and intolerance is increasingly forcing most journalists to exercise self-censorship or leave Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing how journalists, who have fled Azerbaijan, are detained abroad at the request of Interpol, as it recently happened to Fikrat Huseynli in Ukraine. And in some occasions, as in the case of Afghan Mukhtarli, Azerbaijani intelligence agencies kidnap a journalist in neighboring Georgia and illegally transfer him to Azerbaijan, where he is tortured and illegally arrested. The recent shocking contract-killing of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who investigated the corruption links between the ruling elite of Azerbaijan and Malta, should be seen as the latest culmination point of intolerance and impunity for crimes against journalists,” Emin Huseynov concluded.
IRFS considers the politically-motivated and fabricated arrests and ongoing imprisonment of journalists Mehman Huseynov, Afgan Mukhtarli, Seymur Hazi, Aziz Orujov, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Fikrat Ibishbayli, Afgan Sadigov, Elchin Ismayilli, Javid Shiraliyev, Mahbub Zulfugarli, Ziya Asadli and Arshad Ibrahimov, bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustemzade, writers Saday Shakarli and Tofig Hasanov, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, as state crimes, and therefore calls for their immediate release.
IRFS also condemns the authorities of Azerbaijan for beginning to block the Internet in order to prevent live broadcasts on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram by independent media outlets, which attempted to cover the opposition protests of October 7 and 28 in Baku through live transmission.
IRFS assesses any illegal technical, legislative and administrative restrictions administered by the authorities as an encroachment on freedom of speech and a threat to the safety of journalists.
IRFS calls on the authorities to stop all possible forms of crimes against journalists and the media, release all arrested media representatives from prisons, put an end to the practice of blocking the websites of independent local and international media outlets, lift all restrictions on Azerbaijani journalists’ travel out of the country, allow all foreign journalists to enter the country thereby ensuring a full freedom of movement for media representatives, stop jamming mobile Internet during opposition protest rallies and country-wide decrease of wired and wireless Internet speed on the eve of and after protests, enable independent local and international TV and radio companies to function in the country, create conditions for the resumption of the publication of independent print media outlets, remove all artificial restrictions on the receipt of support from foreign donors for the development of non-commercial media initiatives, provide access to broadband Internet for the entire population of Azerbaijan both in cities and regions, ensure that the work of the public TV and radio broadcaster is in line with international standards, and ensure freedom of and access to information on the basis of international standards for both the Azerbaijani population and international community.
IRFS calls on the UNESCO and the UN to make serious demands on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure the safety of journalists, and unless these demands are fulfilled, to cancel – as the first sanction on the part of the organization – the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador status of First Vice-President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, who is responsible for the suppression of freedom of speech in the country.
IRFS further calls upon all advisory institutions of the Council of Europe and the European Union to take a tougher approach regarding the issues of observing the freedom of expression and ensuring the safety of journalists in Azerbaijan in accordance with European standards, and gradually apply dissuasive sanctions against the worst violators within the government of Azerbaijan.
IRFS calls on the US and Canadian authorities to start using the recently emerged legislative opportunities to apply sanctions against high-ranking corrupt Azerbaijani officials, who are responsible for the gross violations of fundamental human rights.