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INSTITUTE FOR REPORTER FREEDOM AND SAFETY
27 November 2006
The Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety condemns the closure of ANS and the illegal and aggressive eviction of all organizations from the Azadlig Newspaper’s building. IRFS believes that this is by far the cruelest step that Azerbaijan’s government has taken in its attempt to strangle off the independent press. Besides the murder of Elmar Huseynov, these actions stand out as the worst events in the history of Azerbaijan’s independent press. The fact that on one day, Nov. 24, the government initiated the closure of ANS and the spontaneous eviction of Azadlig Newspaper, the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Turan Information Agency, the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety and other organizations shows that this is no coincidence, but rather a well-concerted and deliberate campaign.
After the closure of ANS, the broadcasting company’s bank accounts were frozen and suspicious criminal charges were bought against the company’s vice-president, Mirshahin Agayev. IRFS believes that the government wants to obtain possession or at a minimum control over this company. This is similar to what the Russian government did to NTV channel in 2001.
Regarding the Azadlig Newspaper building, the court trial conducted on this matter on Nov. 24 was preconceived and had serious legal shortcomings. Therefore, IRFS accepts the verdict to immediately evict Azadlig Newspaper and all other organizations as illegitimate. Only a half hour after this verdict was handed down, police seized the building, throwing Azadlig, Turan, IRFS and all organizations out on to the street. The operation to empty all of the possessions of these organizations took place on Nov. 25 and was overseen by Baku City Deputy Police Chief Yashar Aliyev, an officer known for using violence against journalists. While the building was being emptied, journalists were prohibited from photographing and the diplomatic corps was not allowed to observe. One journalist received a death threat from police for trying to photograph the process and embassy representatives reported being pushed by police.
None of the evicted organizations have moved into the offices offered to them by the government, all of which turned out, not surprisingly, to be in deplorable condition and extremely far away from Baku’s center. Azadlig Newspaper has temporarily found asylum in the office of “Yeni Musavat” Newspaper, while Bizim Yol and the Popular Front Party are temporarily working out of the headquarters of the Democratic Party. Turan Information Agency has found a new office, but is still struggling to reacquire some of its possessions which remain confiscated. And IRFS remains homeless.
IRFS calls on international organizations to appeal to the government of Azerbaijan for the restoration of ANS’ activity and for all organizations from the Azadlig Newspaper Building to be able to return to their rightful offices at 33 Khagani Street.
Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety
Address: 33 Khagani St., Baku, Azerbaijan,
Tеl: (+99 412) 418-03-34, E-mail: email@example.com
Defend Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan!
APWLD (Asia Pacific Forum On Women, Law And Development) Condemns Closure of ANS, Independent TV Broadcaster in Azerbaijan and Police Seizure of Azadlig Newspaper Building, violence dispersal of the November 23 PPFA Press Freedom Picket and Calls for the Immediate Release of 70 demonstrators, including 20 women, arrested during the picket in Baku.
APWLD calls upon on the government of President Ilham Aliev:
- to fulfill its international obligations to respect Azerbaijan people’s human right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly;
- to withdraw the unjust court decision on the eviction of all organizations from the Azadlig Newspaper building and allow Azadlig Newspaper, Turan Information Agency and all other organization to return to their offices.
- to restore ANS broadcasting along with the programming of Voice of America, Radio Liberty and the BBC.
APWLD salutes the courage of women and men human rights defenders in Azerbaijan! We express our solidarity with our sisters and comrades in IRFA, ANS, Azadlig Newspaper, Institute of Peace and Democracy and Azerbaijan democracy movements who stand firm in their fight for their rights, justice and democracy.
APWLD calls on the Azerbaijan government and President Ilham Aliev to respect and uphold the human rights of Azerbaijan human rights defenders!
November 27, 2006
APWLD is regional women’s human rights network of 150 members in 23 countries of the Asia Pacific region committed to enabling women to use law as an instrument of social change, equality and development