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Journalists in Baku harassed by Presidential Administration guards over protest rally

Azerbaijani police officers detain an opposition activist during a protest rally in Baku, Azerbaijan, Saturday, June 19, 2010.

Presidential Administration guards in Azerbaijan on Tuesday detained photographers covering a demonstration over flood relief measures, according to Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS).

IRFS and Turan Information Agency employees Javid Gurbanov and Mehman Huseynov, Radio Liberty correspondent Abbas Atilay and "Bizim Yol" newspaper correspondent Haji Zeynalov were detained by the guards when they were taking pictures and filming a protest being held by Sabirabad region residents who had suffered losses due to flooding of the Kur river. The journalists were taken to the administrative building of the Presidential Administration where they were told that they were not authorised to film or photograph the administration's premises.

The journalists' footage and photographs were checked and anything that showed the Presidential Administration building was erased. The journalists were then given warnings against obtaining images of the premises in the future and were freed.

IRFS condemned the harassment of the journalists and characterised the Presidential Administration guards' actions as a pressure tactic used against media personnel and a violation of journalists' rights to freely gather and distribute information. The organisation noted that there is no legal documentation of a ban on the filming or taking of photographs of the Presidential Administration building and that no signage to that effect has been erected in the area.

IRFS said that journalists have been repeatedly detained for filming the Presidential Administration building, such that the organization previously issued a request to the administration asking for information regarding any laws regulating a ban on filming. No official response was provided.

It emphasised that in many democratic countries there is no restriction on obtaining images of presidential administration buildings and that media representatives, citizens, and even tourists can take pictures of these buildings. In this case, the rights of journalists as stipulated in local and international laws, including Article 50 of Azerbaijan's Constitution (on Freedom of Expression), Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (also on Freedom of Expression) and Article 163 of Azerbaijan Criminal Code (on interference in the professional work of journalist), were violated.

IRFS called on the Azerbaijani government and the Presidential Administration to respect local and international laws, and to provide the necessary conditions required for journalists to carry out their work.

Date posted: July 24, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 2865