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Azerbaijan29 November 2005

Opposition journalists again the victims of police violence

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the violence used by police against at least 12 journalists working for various news media when a demonstration organised by the opposition alliance Azadlig was dispersed by force on 26 November in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.

“The fact that the crowd did not disperse voluntarily at the end of the two hours allowed by the authorities for the demonstration should not have led to the use of such violence by the police, and it is unacceptable that journalists should be beaten during opposition demonstrations whether authorised or not,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We call on interior minister Ramil Usubov to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Azerbaijani and foreign journalists,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Some 10,000 people gathered in the capital’s Gelebe (Victory) Square in the first demonstration of this scale since the disputed final results of the 6 November legislative elections were proclaimed on 23 November. The aim of the protest was to denounce electoral fraud and to demand new elections and the government’s resignation.

As soon as the two hours allowed for the demonstration had expired, the police used baton charges, tear gas and water canon to break up the crowd, which included women, children and old people. About 10 people were left lying on the ground and had to be taken to hospital. Hundreds were hit and at least 29 people were arrested, including an opposition party leader.

At least 12 journalists were the victims of police violence. Most were showing their press ID and some of them were wearing the navy-blue jacket which the Press Council gives to journalists to protect them from attack. Many of them were attacked as they were photographing the police dispersing protesters.

Among the journalists hit by the police were:

-  Elbrus Seyfullayev of the news agency Azerpress;
-  Shahin Aydin of the weekly Bizim Yol;
-  Shaida Tulagayeva, a cameraman working for the BBC;
-  Shirin Safarov of the daily Baki Khabar;
-  Zaur Rasulov, a correspondent for the Russian-language daily Novoe Vremia;
-  Anar Bayramoglu, a correspondent for the newspaper Sharg;
-  Samir Neymanoglu of the news agency Turan;
-  Mustafa Hacili, deputy editor of the daily Yeni Musavat;
-  Sarvan Rizvanov of the news agency Turan;
-  Elman Mailov, a correspondent for the daily Express;
-  Aga Safarov, a correspondent for the Turkish daily Hurriyet;
-  Zohrab Ismail of the daily Azadlig, also a member of the Press Council.

According to the final results announced on 23 November, President Ilham Aliyev’s party won 58 of the 125 parliamentary seats, the opposition got 10 seats and the remaining seats went to various other pro-government candidates.

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