Washington, D.C., August 27, 2019 — Azerbaijani authorities should immediately release journalist Ikram Rahimov and stop retaliating against reporters for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Rahimov, chief editor of the Azeri-language independent news website Realliq, is set to appear before a judge for an appeal hearing tomorrow, according to his lawyer Elchin Sadygov, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and media reports. He was first arrested on October 26, 2018, and in June was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on charges of extortion, according to CPJ reporting.
“Ikram Rahimov should never have been imprisoned, and Azerbaijani authorities should use his appeal hearing as an opportunity to right this wrong,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release him and allow Rahimov to recover his health. The practice of imprisoning independent reporters who expose corruption must stop.”
Rahimov’s health has deteriorated since he began a hunger strike on August 7, according to a source close to the journalist who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Authorities arrested Rahimov shortly after he published an editorial alleging corruption in the country’s Press Council, a government media regulator, and accused him of collecting compromising information on individuals as a means of extortion, according to CPJ research.
The Azerbaijani prosecutor general’s office in Baku did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
Rahimov previously served a one-year prison sentence in 2016 and 2017 on defamation charges, and was included in CPJ’s 2016 prison census. CPJ’s 2018 census found 10 journalists imprisoned in Azerbaijan for their work.