Azerbaijan confiscates Norwegian footage on Fatullayev

New York, May 7, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately investigate the illegal confiscation of footage and reporting from Norwegian television reporter Erling Borgen and cameraman Dag Inge Dahl on Thursday.

Borgen, who has his own documentary production company, was working with Dahl on a film about freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, focusing on the case of imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. The project is sponsored by the Norwegian Freedom of Expression Fund, Borgen told CPJ.

The two journalists spent six days in Baku interviewing a variety of reporters, human rights and press freedom defenders, and relatives of the imprisoned journalist, Borgen told CPJ. They also attended a hearing in the new, drug-related case against Fatullayev.

When the filmmakers collected their luggage on their arrival in Oslo, their reporting specifically on Fatullayev was missing. “Our hard disks, containing all of our sources’ information, our video footage, the physical photos the Fatullayev family had given us, memory sticks, and memory cards containing all the photos we had taken in Baku—everything was taken,” Borgen told CPJ. Also missing was the copy of the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights, ordering Fatullayev’s immediate release, Borgen had taken to read on the plane.

“We are alarmed by this heavy-handed attempt to prevent reporting on Eynulla Fatullayev’s continued imprisonment in defiance of a European court order from reaching the outside world,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We hold the authorities responsible for the return of all footage and journalistic materials, and for the safety of all those Azerbaijanis who helped the Norwegian crew with their reporting.”

Borgen and Dahl said they were approached at Baku International Airport by seven unidentified men after they had cleared security and were about to board a plane. After arguing with the journalists about their allegedly overweight luggage, Borgen said, the men took his and Dahl’s carry-on bags. “They told us that we are not allowed to take a single bag with us on board the plane,” Borgen told CPJ. When the two protested, the men grew hostile and said the journalists would get their luggage at the gate. They did not.

Borgen said the crew had sent copies of the reporting back to Norway before leaving Baku, but he said he fears for the safety of his sources and fixer in Azerbaijan. The two journalists said they have reported the incident to the Norwegian police and foreign ministry.