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Azerbaijan: Journalist hounded in autonomous republic, two colleagues attacked

Hakimeldostu Mehdiyev, a correspondent of the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, has repeatedly been harassed by officials for the past week. It is the latest example of the intolerance that the local authorities show towards the media in Nakhchivan, an Azerbaijani exclave between Armenia and Iran, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has said.

“This harassment of Mehdiyev on the most ridiculous pretexts must stop at once, and the physical violence used against two of his fellow journalists must not go unpunished,” RSF said. “Attacks on journalists are unfortunately common in Nakhchivan, where the authorities like to foster a climate of tension that is very hostile to media freedom.”

Mehdiyev lives in Jalil, a village near the city of Sharur in northwestern Nakhchivan, and runs a small car-wash next to his house as an additional source of income. On the evening of July 15, he received a visit from a group of police officers and men in plain-clothes led by Aladdin Mamedov, the deputy head of the Sharur regional government, who said they had come to disconnect the electricity supply to the car-wash on the grounds that it constituted “illegal use of energy.”

Two colleagues of Mehdiyev, Elman Abasov of IRFS and Ilgar Nasibov of the Turan news agency, were violently attacked by policemen when they tried to film the scene. Their equipment was confiscated and they were taken to a police station, where they were held for several hours. All three journalists filed a complaint with the regional prosecutor’s office on July 18.

The harassment of Mehdiyev nonetheless continued. The electricity supply to his house was disconnected. And then, on July 19, he was summoned by the local prosecutor, who threatened to arrest his son if he did not withdraw the complaint.

According to Mehdiyev, who has been harassed in the past, he is being hounded now because he accompanied Michael Ludwig, a journalist with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, during an abortive reporting visit to Nakhchivan in early July.

When Ludwig arrived in Nakhchivan with press accreditation from the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, the local authorities initially refused to let him work. Then, after long negotiations, they allowed him freedom of movement as long as he was always accompanied by a representative of the Nakhchivan government.

Everything Ludwig did was reported back to the local authorities by this official, who made it impossible for him to interview members of the local population freely. Ludwig finally left without getting the story he was after.

What with physical attacks on journalists and frequent blocking of Internet connections, the media freedom situation is appalling in Nakhchivan and the local authorities are largely to blame. But, far from trying to rein them in, the Azerbaijani government in Baku seems to be taking a leaf from their book. Violence against journalists has resumed throughout Azerbaijan since a crackdown on a peaceful protests in March and April.

There have been no results in the investigations into two cases in which opposition newspaper reporters Seymour Khaziyev and Ramin Deco were abducted and beaten in separate incidents a week apart in late March and early April.

Date posted: July 20, 2011 Last modified: May 12, 2018 Total views: 43