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Police prevent staff of Azerbaijan newspaper from working

Police prevent staff of Azerbaijan newspaper from working
Azadlig editor Ganimat Zahidov.

The police prevented the staff of the opposition newspaper Azadlig from entering its premises Monday at the behest of Agbey Askerov, the head of the state-owned publishing house Azerbaijan, which prints the newspaper, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

Askerov is demanding immediate repayment of a debt of 15,000 manats (15,000 euros), which he says dates back to 2003. RSF condemned the move, seeing it as a pretext for forcing the country's main opposition newspaper to close. Askerov's behaviour is all the more curious as he and Azadlig editor Ganimat Zahidov had previously agreed that the debt would be paid off in monthly instalments.

The government's decision to delay disbursement of 20,000 manats in state aid to Azadlig until the debt is fully paid is therefore also very puzzling. President Ilham Aliyev had announced on July 22, national press day, that a total of 32 pro-government and opposition newspapers, including Azadlig, would each receive a donation of 20,000 manats as a gesture of state support for the media.

By demanding prior repayment of the debt, the government is preventing Azadlig from receiving its share of the state aid, RSF asserted. Zahid has appealed to Press Council about this, but so far no action has been taken.

Violations of freedom of expression are common in Azerbaijan, which was ranked 146th out of 175 countries in the 2009 RSF press freedom index. Journalists are subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and beatings.

Date posted: August 3, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 208