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Azerbaijan22 January 2009

Four journalists threatened and expelled from Nakhchivan for trying to investigate disappearance of mother and son

Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that four journalists - Malahat Nasibova of the news agency Turan, Hakimeldostu Mehdiyev, Mahman Mehdiyev and Elman Abbasov of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS) - were prevented from working on 16 January in Nakhchivan, an autonomous region that is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory.

They were threatened and then expelled from Nakhchivan after trying to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mother and her son two weeks ago in the town of Sadarak, in the northwest of the region.

“The way these four journalists were mistreated and threatened is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They were prevented from doing their job for no valid reason. The Azerbaijani authorities are clearly determined not just to obstruct but also to crush press freedom. We appeal to the government to allow independent news media the freedom to choose the stories they cover.”

The four reporters went Sadarak to look into the disappearance of Khanymzer Huseynova and her son Elvyn. As they approached the Huseynov family home, they were insulted by men in civilian dress and were told they needed a “permit” to visit the province. One of the journalists, Hakimeldostu Mehdiyev, was threatened with physical violence. They were then put on a bus and expelled from the province.

The journalists think the men in civilian dress were officials as they all wore badges with the photo of former President Heydar Aliyev, the father of Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded him as president in 2003.

Elvyn Huseynov was one of seven young people who were arrested on 24 December for allegedly trying to disconnect the lights of a New Year’s tree in Sadarak. The parents initially filed a complaint against the arresting police officers, but they all later retracted, with the exception of Elvyn’s parents, who were themselves then arrested. Elvyn’s father was subsequently placed in a psychiatric hospital but Elvyn and his mother have been missing since 8 January.

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