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Azerbaijan22 September 2003

Police attack and detain journalists covering opposition rallies

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about harassment of the independent news media in the run-up to next month’s presidential elections after at least five independent and opposition journalists were attacked by police and two others were detained yesterday while covering opposition rallies in the towns of Masaly and Lenkoran.

The organisation called on the interior minister and the electoral commission to ensure that independent news media coverage of pre-election activities and election-day voting is not obstructed. It also called for an investigation into the circumstances of yesterday’s attacks on journalists.

Irada Nureddingyzy, a correspondent for the opposition daily Milliyet, Nigyar Almangyzy of the independent daily Express, Samira Zamanly of the opposition daily Khurriyet, Taptig Farhadoglu, a correspondent for the news agency Turan, and Zaur Rasulzade of the Russian-language daily Novoye Vremya were hit with clubs and stones by police and individuals in civilian dress early yesterday afternoon in Masaly (south of Baku).

This took place during a rally held by opposition candidates Etibar Mamedov of the National Independence Party and Ali Kerimly of the People’s Party, which the police tried to break up. Zamanly lost consciousness when hit on the head by a stone.

Rial Jafarli of the daily Azadliq and Ali Orujev of Milliyet were detained at the end of the afternoon as they were covering another rally by the same two candidates in the town of Leknoran. Jafarli was released after five hours. Accused of "hooliganism" and, in particular, of biting a local official’s finger, Orujev was still being held today. Journalists present said the official hurt himself when he grabbed Orujev’s tape-recorder.

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