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Azerbaijan26 January 2007

Open letter to Jacques Chirac and other French politicians alerting them to Azerbaijan’s press freedom violations before they meet President Aliev

On the eve of a state visit to France by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev from 29 to 31 January, Reporters Without Borders wrote today to French President Jacques Chirac and the other political leaders he will meet* to draw their attention to the frequent physical attacks on journalists and the harassment of independent and opposition media in Azerbaijan.

The press freedom organisation said it was very worried about the deterioration in the situation of press freedom in Azerbaijan since 2005 and had already written to President Aliev about this on 4 December

The letter cited the case of Nijat Husseynov, a journalist with the opposition daily Azadlig who investigates corruption. Husseynov, the letter said, “was badly beaten and stabbed by four assailants outside his home in Baku on 25 December and has been in hospital since then with head and stomach injuries. Although the attack took place in broad daylight and the assailants did not bother to cover their faces, the police claim there were no witnesses.”

The attack on Husseynov was the third of its kind in 2006, the letter said, and was typical of the way relations between Azerbaijan’s political leaders and its media representatives often lead to violence against the latter. Two journalists, Bahaddin Khaziyev and Fikret Huseynli, were assaulted in 2006, while Elmar Husseynov, the editor of the magazine Monitor, was murdered in March 2005.

Reporters Without Borders went to Azerbaijan and met President Aliev after the Elmar Husseynov murder. Although promises were made, the case has still not been solved and recent developments have raised doubts about the desire of the Azerbaijani authorities to solve this murder.

The letter also described the recent harassment of privately-owned news media such as the opposition daily Azadlig, the news agency Turan, the newspaper Bizzim Yol and ANS TV. Reporters Without Borders urged France’s leaders to raise these press freedom violations during their meetings with Aliev. “France cannot receive the president of a country where impunity so often prevails without raising these issues,” the letter concluded.

* The letter was also sent to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the presidents of the national assembly and senate, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë and Lille Mayor Martine Aubry.

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