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Azerbaijan7 November 2006

Police disperse demonstration in support of threatened newspaper

Reporters Without Borders voiced astonishment that the police dispersed a group of 50 journalists staging a peaceful demonstration yesterday afternoon outside the building in Baku that houses the State Committee for Property Control. The journalists had gathered to show support for the newspaper Azadlig, which is threatened with eviction. The police said they “violated public security.”

“The action of the police confirms that the Azeri authorities would like to pass over Azadlig’s eviction in silence, but we will continue to draw attention to the threat hanging over this newspaper,” the press freedom organisation said.

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The demonstrators chanted “Freedom for the press”, “Freedom for Sakit Zahidov” (an Azadlig journalist who has been jailed), and “Hands off Azadlig.” The head of the Institute for the Freedom and Safety of Reporters, Emin Huseynov, was thrown to the ground and beaten by men in plain clothes. When the police dispersed the demonstrators, several journalists were briefly detained, included the editors of several Azeri media.

Azadlig has occupied its premises at 33 Khagani Street in Baku free of charge since 1992 under an accord signed that year with the municipal authorities. But last month it was threatened with eviction for “illegal occupation” and was told it would have to pay all the rent for the past 14 years.

“A constructive dialogue with the authorities does not seem possible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Azadlig has several times expressed its desire to regularize its position with the authorities, but it never got an answer. By acting unreasonably, the authorities clearly just want to prevent the newspaper from publishing.”




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