June 2, 2000
His Excellency Heidar Aliyev
President of Azerbaijan
19 Istiglaliyat Street
VIA FAX: 011-99412-920-625
The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the recent police assault on two journalists from the Baku daily Bu gun and by the subsequent raid on the newspaper’s editorial office. This is the second incident during the past month in which Azeri police have attacked local journalists, suggesting a pattern of gross abuse of authority and reckless disregard for press freedom in your country.
At approximately 6 p.m. in the evening on May 27, two journalists from Bu gun were sent to investigate reports of clashes in a Baku café between police of the 28th Police Section of the Yasamal District and high school students who were celebrating their graduation, according to the Baku-based Journalists’ Trade Union.
When reporter Revan Chinghizoglu and photographer Eldeniz Bedelsoy arrived at the café , they were immediately accosted by police officers. The journalists displayed their press cards, but the policemen physically attacked Chinghizoglu and tried to take Bedelsoy’s camera, according to the Journalists’ Trade Union. Bedelsoy reportedly managed to escape with the camera, and was chased to the editorial offices of Bu gun by around 20 policemen.
The police forced their way into the editorial offices and verbally abused staff members according to the newspaper’s editor-in chief, Nesib Ismayilov. They forcibly removed Bedelsoy to the 28th Police Section station where he was held without charge for over two hours. Bedelsoy was released only after the intervention of senior police officers of the Yasamal Distroict Police Department, according to Ismayilov.
Chinghizoglu underwent a medical examination, which revealed a light concussion, an injured knee, strangulation marks, and several minor injuries.
We understand that senior police officers from the Yasamal District Police Department have promised a full investigation. We urge you to ensure that they fulfill their pledge and bring the assailants to justice.
As an independent, nonpartisan organization of journalists that defends the rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is alarmed at this blatant abuse of state power. We last wrote to you less than a month ago to protest the April 29 police beating of 17 journalists who were covering an opposition rally in Baku. We now urge Your Excellency to ensure that police officers who attack journalists are brought to justice, and call on you to foster an environment in which journalists can do their job without fear of retaliation.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper