Baku viciously cracked down on domestic dissent as it hosted two major international events, the Eurovision 2012 song contest and the Internet Governance Forum. Authorities imprisoned at least nine critical journalists on a variety of retaliatory charges, including hooliganism, drug possession, and extortion. CPJ concluded that the charges were fabricated. International human rights groups, including CPJ, criticized the Eurovision organizer, the European Broadcasting Union, for standing by passively as President Ilham Aliyev’s government jailed and intimidated detractors. The broadcasting union, while expressing concern about the abuses, said the contest was an “apolitical” event. Several independent journalists, including award-winning reporter Idrak Abbasov, were brutally assaulted on assignment, but the assailants, believed to have included police and security officers, enjoyed impunity. Investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova was subjected to a contemptible intimidation campaign after reporting on the ruling family’s extensive business interests. State media smeared her reputation, and anonymous individuals circulated intimate videos and photos. Parliament responded to Ismailova’s coverage by passing legislation giving the president broad immunity from prosecution and barring corporations from disclosing a wide range of financial information. Aliyev signed the bills into law in July.
Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world's worst jailer. A CPJ special report
New York, February 13, 2013--A state prosecutor in Baku, the capital, asked a court today to convict imprisoned journalist Avaz Zeynally on charges of extortion and bribery and sentence him to 11 years in jail, according to news reports. Zeynally, editor of the independent daily Khural, has been held in pretrial detention since October 2011.
New York, February 6, 2013--Azerbaijani authorities should drop charges of organizing mass disorder against Tofiq Yaqublu, a columnist for leading opposition daily Yeni Musavat, and immediately release him from jail, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
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