After 34 years at the helm of this oil-rich country courted by many foreign nations, President Heidar Aliev carefully ensured that his son Ilham succeeded him in 2003. Initially seen as an amiable man unsuited to the harsh realities of politics, Ilham has shown himself to be a true son of his father by cracking down hard on his opponents and targeting newspapers that support the opposition or criticise corruption.
A former economic development minister was named in August 2006 as a suspect in the unsolved 2005 murder of editor Elmar Huseynov of the magazine Monitor. Physical attacks on journalists have increased in recent years, while there is a growing tendency for journalists to be sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials. The presidential election scheduled for the autumn of 2008 will show whether the authorities are ready to heed the international community’s calls for greater freedom of expression.