In Azerbaijan, reporter beaten as attacks on newspaper continue

New York, December 26, 2006–Four unidentified men severely beat Nijat Huseynov, a reporter for the Baku-based opposition daily Azadlyg, on Monday morning, according to local and international press reports.

Huseynov told the Turan news agency that he had received anonymous threatening phone calls recently. The callers made reference to Huseynov’s work but did not cite a particular article, he told Turan. The journalist had recently covered alleged corruption among high-ranking government officials.

Four assailants attacked Huseynov as he walked to a bus stop on his way to work at 11:30 a.m., according to Day newspaper. News reports said the attackers knocked the journalist to the ground, kicked him, and punched him; one assailant pulled a knife. As eyewitnesses called for help, the attackers got into a waiting taxi and sped off, according to local press reports.

Huseynov suffered a minor stab wound, head injury, and internal injuries, and he was admitted to the Musa Nagiyev Hospital in Baku, according to international and local press reports.

Huseynov recognized one assailant as someone who was following him for weeks before the attack, Turan reported. Local press reports said that police in the Nasimi district of Baku were aware of the attack, but details regarding the investigation were scarce.

“We condemn this assault on our colleague Nijat Huseynov and call on Azerbaijani authorities to thoroughly investigate the case and punish those responsible,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

Azadlyg and its journalists have been targets of violence and repression during the past year. Azadlyg reporter Fikret Huseynli (Huseinli) was abducted and beaten last March after writing articles that accused senior government officials of taking bribes. In June, police arrested Azadlyg satirist Sakit Zakhidov on drug charges that local press freedom activists and independent journalists say were fabricated. And, in October, a state property regulator was granted court permission to evict Azadlyg from its offices.