17 journalists beaten at opposition rally

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New York, May 4, 2000 – Seventeen journalists were beaten by police while covering an opposition demonstration on April 29 in the capital city of Baku, according to the Journalists’ Trade Union and other sources in Azerbaijan.

Demonstrators organized by the Democratic Congress, an alliance of 10 opposition parties, called for a clean vote in the Parliamentary elections later this year and the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev. Although the demonstration had been banned by government authorities, the Democratic Congress decided to hold the protest in Fizuli Square in the center of Baku and several thousand people gathered in the streets. Dozens of would-be participants were reported beaten and injured as police, armed with shields, truncheons and metal bars, tried to block the square.

CPJ’s sources in the region have independently confirmed that seventeen journalists from nine different newspapers were among those beaten and injured in the rally. About 50 arrests were made, according to the official news agency Turan, but there were no reports that journalists were arrested.

CPJ Europe Program Coordinator Emma Gray said “We are concerned about the heavy-handedness of the police, and about reports of physical attacks on newspaper reporters and photographers who were only trying to do their job.”