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Azerbaijan26 February 2008

Azadlig reporter attacked and beaten while filming illegal transaction

Reporters Without Borders condemns a physical attack on Agil Khalilov, a reporter aged about 20 who works for the opposition daily Azadlig. He was attacked and beaten on 22 February when the participants in an illegal land sale spotted him trying to film them with a video camera.

“Physical attacks on journalist are not uncommon in Azerbaijan,” the press freedom organisation said. “We condemn the use of violence to prevent journalists doing their job and we call on the authorities to investigate this case in order to punish those responsible.”

Khalilov’s assailants beat him about the head and body, broke one of his fingers, tried to strangle him and grabbed his camera and documents. Passers-by who came to his aid said his assailants included local government representatives and a ministry official.

Azadlig is often the target of harassment. Its editor, Ganimat Zahidov, is currently held on a charge of “aggravated hooliganism,” which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. His brother, Sakit Zahidov, a reporter for the newspaper, was sentenced on 4 October 2006 to three years in prison for possession of drugs for personal consumption although prosecutors failed to demonstrate during his trial that he possessed any drugs.

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