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Azerbaijan8 November 2005

Journalists harassed covering legislative election

Reporters Without Borders protested after journalists were harassed while covering 6 November 2005 legislative elections in Baku. One was beaten and arrested and seven others were beaten or forcibly ejected from polling stations.

“These unacceptable incidents prevented some journalists from doing their job properly during this decisive day,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said, adding that it feared a worsening crackdown during upcoming demonstrations called by the opposition to demand that the results be overturned.

Mahabbat Orujev, of the leading opposition daily Yeni Musavat, was beaten and detained by police in the 17th electoral district of the Sabunchi region in the northern Baku suburbs then released a few hours later. Police officers said one of his reports had been biased.

Azer Ayhan and Rey Kerimoglu of the same daily were insulted and manhandled out of polling stations in the 5th district of the same region by men in plain clothes who said they were police officers.

In the 44th district of Garadag (Baku suburbs), a correspondent for the opposition weekly Paytaht, Anar Orujev, was removed from the polling station by a group in plain clothes.

A journalist with opposition weekly Gyrhchirag, Shakir Izziatoglu, was beaten up as he tried to cover polling in the town of Ali-Bayramli, in the south of the country, near the capital.

Three other journalists with the daily Baki Khabar were also beaten or insulted. They were Nabi Alishev, in the 36th district of Hatai Region, Habiba Abdulla, in the 26th district of the Sabunchi region and Ruslan Bashirli, in the 20th district of the Narimanov region.

While observing an improvement compared to presidential polling in October 2003, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) condemned irregularities in the elections, particularly during the counting of votes. They also particularly condemned media bias during the run-up to the elections and the disproportionate use of force during demonstrations as well as several unfair arrests.

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