New York, March 1, 2012–At least two journalists were injured and another five suffered the effects of tear gas while covering violent clashes between police and residents of the northeastern city of Quba, according to news reports and CPJ sources.
Thousands of protesters calling for a local governor’s resignation set fire to government buildings and the governor’s house, news reports said. Two journalists were assaulted during the protests, Emin Huseynov, director of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in the capital, Baku, told CPJ. Authorities sent riot police and armored vehicles today to quell the protesters, the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
Huseynov told CPJ that unidentified assailants attacked Rashid Aliyev, a reporter for the Internet-based Obyektiv-TV, from behind, wounding his head. Idrak Abbasov, a journalist with IRFS, suffered an unspecified arm injury, Huseynov said. The injured journalists, along with those who were sprayed with tear gas, all sought treatment at a hospital, Huseynov said. He also told CPJ that the journalists told him they were wearing vests that clearly identified them as press although it was not clear whether they had been targeted.
“We deplore the attacks against our colleagues, and call on regional authorities to investigate all incidents,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.
Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the governor’s office today, calling for Governor Rauf Habibov’s resignation and demanding an apology for his comments at a recent government meeting in which he accused Quba residents of being “traitors” and selling their land cheap to people from other regions, local and international press reports said. The protests began after video footage of Habibov’s comments was uploaded on YouTube earlier this week. Habibov reportedly apologized for his statement, and has since been dismissed from his position, news reports said.