Two foreign reporters brutally assaulted in Azerbaijan

New York, June 16, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the vicious beating in Baku of international journalists Amanda Erickson and Celia Davies, and calls on the authorities to bring their attackers to justice.

Erickson is an American freelance contributor to The Washington Post and The New York Times, and Davies is a British staffer at the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS). They also run training programs for local journalists, Emin Huseynov, IRFS director told CPJ. Both live in Baku.

Four men followed and attacked Erickson and Davies at around midnight on Wednesday outside their apartment building in Baku, the Azeri service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. According to Huseynov, the assailants accosted and beat Erickson and Davies without saying anything; they did not take any personal items from the women.

Davies’ left arm was broken, and Erickson suffered multiple bruises. Both have been hospitalized. Erickson and Davies gave statements to the Baku police, but a probe has not yet been launched, Huseynov said. The motive behind the attack remained unclear.

“We urge the Baku police to investigate this appalling attack immediately,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “Since robbery does not appear to be behind the assault, the authorities must consider journalism as a motive.”

With no valuables taken off the women, Huseynov told CPJ he believes the attack is related their work in Azerbaijan, calling it a “forewarning message to independent reporters and rights activists.”

Coincidentally, the assault took place during the visit to Azerbaijan of Thomas Melia, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Labor, local press reported. According to Huseynov, Melia was briefed about the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Baku is monitoring developments in the case.