In Azerbaijan, media watchdog raided, equipment confiscated

New York, August 8, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Azerbaijani authorities to stop harassing the Baku-based media freedom group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. Detectives with Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office raided the IRFS premises today, the local press reported. A journalist who was at the raid told CPJ that the detectives confiscated some of their equipment, including computers. The whereabouts of IRFS’s director, Emin Huseynov, are unknown, the local press said. Two days ago, authorities stopped Huseynov from exiting Azerbaijan when he tried to travel to Turkey for medical treatment, according to the local news website Contact.

“The Institute of Reporters’ Freedom and Safety has long defended the rights of independent journalists and free media–a beleaguered community in Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijan,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on the Azerbaijani government to stop harassing IRFS and other journalists and human rights defenders, and to live up to its role as current chair of the Council of Europe, where freedom of expression is a core value.”

The harassment of IRFS is a part of a large-scale crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan, which has intensified in recent days with the arrest of a couple of human rights defenders. Press freedom conditions in Azerbaijan have deteriorated in recent years, according to CPJ research. Despite Azerbaijani authorities’ declared commitments to uphold press freedom, as well as the obligations before the Council of Europe, they have jailed and harassed critics, adopted laws restricting the press, and imposed draconian restrictions on nongovernmental organizations.