Baku police detained Milli, 30, publisher of the blog ANTV, and Hajizade, 26, a video blogger and coordinator of the Azerbaijani youth movement Ol! (Yes!), after the two reported that they had been attacked at a local restaurant.
Milli and Hajizade were debating politics with friends when two unknown men interrupted their conversation and started a brawl, they said. When the bloggers went to report the assault to local police, they were arrested for “hooliganism,” a criminal charge that carries up to five years in jail. A second charge of “inflicting bodily harm” was added in August. On November 11, a Sabail District Court judge pronounced the bloggers guilty, sentencing Milli to two and a half years in jail and Hajizade to two years.
Shortly before their detention, Milli and Hajizade had posted video sketches that criticized Azerbaijani government policies. They interviewed local residents and posted their opinions online, sharing them through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Among the issues discussed on their blogs were education, corruption, and poor infrastructure in Azerbaijan, according to multiple news reports and CPJ sources.
Domestic and international rights groups condemned the arrests of Milli and Hajizade as staged by authorities in retaliation for the critical content of their blogs. According to multiple sources, a satirical video the bloggers produced and posted on YouTube in late June may have prompted their arrests. The video criticized the country’s importation of donkeys, supposedly at high prices. The sketch depicted a fictional press conference at which Hajizade, wearing a donkey suit, talked to a group of Azerbaijani “journalists.”