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Azerbaijan30 May 2006

On visit to France, Aliev reminded of violence against journalists at home

A day after he began a three-day visit to France, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev was today reminded by Reporters Without Borders that there is more violence against journalists in his country than in any other former Soviet state, with more than 50 attacks last year.

“There have been repeated acts of violence against journalist in Azerbaijan since your reelection in October 2003,” the press freedom organisation said in a message to Aliev. “The most critical publications are being steadily silenced, while investigations into the murders of journalists grind to a halt, fostering a climate of impunity.”

The organisation added: “You have denied independent journalists any guarantees by refusing to let the judicial authorities investigate those responsible for violence against them. Their safety is no longer assured in Azerbaijan.”

More than 20 journalists were beaten by the security forces during an opposition demonstration on 9 October, a few weeks before last November’s legislative elections. The police used baseball bats on the demonstrators and two journalists were rushed unconscious to hospital.

Two Azerbaijani journalists were killed last year. Elmar Husseynov, the editor of the opposition weekly Monitor, was shot dead on 2 March. He and other members of his staff had been constantly harassed by the authorities for several years. The police assumed the motive was linked to his work as a journalist but, more than a year later, they have still not found those who did it. The independent media say the authorities were behind the murder. The victim’s father also expressed the same opinion.

Photojournalist Alim Kazimli of the main opposition daily Yeni Musavat died of a brain haemorrhage on 19 June 2005 as a result of a beating he received in a police station in Baku on 28 December 2004. He had warned police officers that he would write about their corrupt and illegal practices. His newspaper was closed down by the authorities at the start of 2005.

Two opposition journalists, Bahaddin Khaziyev of the daily Bizim Yol and Fikret Huseynli of the daily Azadlig, have narrowly escaped murder attempts since the start of this year without an investigation being opened in either case. Abducted, beaten and left for dead, both of these journalists were subjected to extraordinary brutality. The recurrence of this type of attack suggests that criminal gangs are at work, but no one knows who they work for.

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