Embattled reporter escapes attempts on his life

New York, May 9, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by continuing attacks on Agil Khalil, a reporter with the Azerbaijani opposition daily Azadlyg (Freedom). On Wednesday afternoon, at least two unidentified men tried to push Khalil onto the tracks of a Baku subway. Later that same day, two young men tried to kidnap Khalil near his house in Baku, the director of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Emin Huseynov, told CPJ.

Khalil managed to escape the attacks unharmed but, fearing for his life, he has gone into hiding, the institute reported.

“We are outraged at the ongoing attacks against Agil Khalil and urge the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate the attempts on his life, and to guarantee his safety,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “By ignoring attacks against journalists, Azerbaijani authorities become complicit in perpetuating the cycle of impunity, which further mars the country’s abysmal press freedom record.”

Huseynov told CPJ that several young men tried to push Khalil on the tracks under an approaching train at the “28 May” subway station in Baku, at around 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Later, two unknown men in their 30s approached Khalil near his house in Baku and grabbed him by the arms, he told the IRFS. Khalil managed to shake off his attackers but, fearing for his safety, he spent the night away from his home.

Khalil believes he was attacked because of his investigation into earlier attacks against him, Huseynov told CPJ.

In February, two men attacked the journalist as he was trying to report on the cutting down of trees in the Baku area known as Olive Gardens. The men beat Khalil, broke his finger, took his press ID, and tried to strangle him with his camera’s cord. Khalil reported the incident to police—a passerby took video footage of the beating, local press reported. According to the Russian news agency Regnum, Khalil identified one of his attackers and said he had pictures of both assailants.

In March, Khalil survived another attempt on his life—four unidentified assailants surrounded him as he was leaving his newsroom; one stabbed him in the chest, narrowly missing his heart, IRFS reported.