Azerbaijani TV journalists receive death threats

Two contributors to the Azerbaijani broadcaster Meydan TV, which has broadcast from Berlin since 2014 out of concern for the safety of its staff, received death threats on October 4, 2016, according to press reports.

Sevinc Osmanqizi, who is based in the United States, received phone calls with death threats to her and her family, according to Meydan TV. Similar threats were made on the same day to Aynur Elgunesh, who contributes to the station from the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Elgunesh wrote on Facebook and told the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Azerbaijani service, Azadliq.

Meydan TV reports on sensitive issues, including allegations of government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. Osmanqizi recently reported on alleged irregularities during the September 26, 2016, constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan. She also produced an interview with former speaker of the parliament and opposition leader Isa Gambar in which the journalist asked whether Azerbaijan was turning into a monarchy. Elgunesh recently reported allegations of bribery in the Ministry of Culture.

Elgunesh said that the telephone threats came from an employee of the Azerbaijan’s state news agency, AIA, her employer reported.

AIA’s chief editor, Azer Mamedov, denied those allegations in an interview with Azadliq, calling them “slander, a lie.”

Both journalists filed complaints with the police on October 5, 2016. Meydan TV reported. Elgunesh’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told independent regional online news agency Kavkazsky Uzel that the threats were “real and serious,” and that his client insisted on a full investigation.

Meydan TV journalists have been repeatedly harassed, imprisoned and jailed in the past, CPJ reported at the time. The outlet closed its newsroom in Baku in December 2014 out of concern for the safety of its staff. Authorities in Baku have continued to harass the station, threatening Emin Milli, the outlet’s director, who was forced into exile, and harassing and jailing Meydan TV contributors in Azerbaijan, according to reports.