- Ayna-Zerkalo, newspaper, censored
Government censors removed and cut articles from the independent newspaper Ayna-Zerkalo on several occasions in 1996 and 1997. For example:
January 6 – Censors cut an interview with the vice president of the Social Democratic Party, Zardusht Alizadeh.
April 13 – Censors cut an article on human rights violations in Azerbaijan and a statement by an opposition party.
August 31 – Censors removed an article about the popular movement of a former president. The article had occupied a whole page.
September 14 – Censors eliminated an article about human rights violations and an interview with a parliament member.
October 12 – Censors removed an article about human rights violations and one about the difficult conditions of imprisoned opposition members arrested two years before in Sharur region.
November 16 – Censors cut an article analyzing the trial of 16 members of an OPON special police troop unit accused of a coup attempt.
April 5 – Censors cut an article about the arrest of former prime minister Suret Husseinov.
April 12 – Censors removed part of an article on Armenian-Russian relations.
April 26 – Censors cut information about the state importing products of inferior quality from Austria.
May 17 – Censors cut an article about leaders of the opposition National Independence party.
- Azadliq, newspaper, censored
This opposition newspaper suffered from government censorship on many occasions in 1996 and 1997. For example:
January 3 – Censors blocked publication of the issue because of an article criticizing the president’s decree that granted amnesty to 571 people convicted of deserting the army and other crimes. The article questioned why political prisoners remained in jail.
January 6 – Censors removed an article about overcrowding in prisons and camps.
April 2 – Censors removed several articles based on material from the satirical newspaper Chesme.
April 4 – Censors removed an article with information about the arrest of former chief of Internal Troops Fakhmin Gajiev.
April 6 – Censors cut an article critical of the authorities.
April 9 – Censors removed information about the trial of a special unit of OPON police.
April 20 – Censors removed an article about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.
November 19 – Censors cut an article about mass arrests in Kazakh region.
November 21 – Censors cut an article by journalist Elchin Seljug about President Aliyev.
November 22 – Censors cut a report about Turkey.
November 23 – Censors cut an article by Azeri attorney Isakhan Asurov.
November 26 – Censors removed two articles about the dismissal of the prime minister and the speaker of parliament and put cartoons in their place.
December 5 – Censors removed part of a journalist’s prison memoirs.
December 10 – Censors cut an article about human rights in Azerbaijan.
December 12 – Censors cut an article about arrested members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan.
December 16 – Censors removed several parts of an article analyzing the results of the OSCE conference in Lisbon.
December 17 – Censors cut an article discussing a draft national budget for 1997.
December 19 – Censors cut an article by Elchin Seljug about the trial of the members of the OPON special police force, accused of a coup attempt. An interview with Etibar Mamedov, chairman of the Party of National Independence, also was cut.
December 20 – Censors cut two articles, one about a coup attempt trial and one about corruption in the Ministry of Defense.
December 21 – Censors pulled a speech transcript of Jallal Aliyev, a parliamentary deputy and brother of the president. They also removed prison memoirs, an article about the OSCE summit in Lisbon, and an article about the trial of a group accused in a coup attempt.
December 24 – Censors cut an article about the ill health of imprisoned former minister of internal affairs Iskander Hamidov and an article about the Baku city administration.
December 28 – Censors cut two articles, one about the information policy in Azerbaijan and one about a police raid on a mosque.
April 2 – Censors removed part of a statement of the Democratic Congress condemning attacks on the opposition by the authorities.
April 3 – Censors removed an article on the facts of human rights violations in Azerbaijan, running a cartoon instead.
April 24 – Censors removed four articles.
April 30 – Censors cut a political commentary.
May 14 – Censors cut part of an article about the problems of foreign students studying in Azerbaijan.
May 17 – Censors cut a statement by the Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA) about a violation of the presumption of innocence by the State Radio and Television.
May 20 – Censors removed a statement by the PFA on the occupation of Shusha and Lachin cities.
May 22 – Censors cut an article on the investigation of an explosion in a military unit of the Azeri army. An article on a parliamentary session also was cut.
July 1 – Censors cut two articles, one on the occupation of the Fizuli region by Armenian troops and one on the death of PFA member Shahmardan Jafarov.
July 3 – Censors cut a report on a press conference held by the leader of the opposition party, Isa Gambar.
July 5 – Censors cut an article on the ecological damage caused by offshore oil production.
July 16 – Censors cut an article about the country’s socio-economic condition.
July 19 – Censors cut large parts from an interview with former president Abulfaz Elchibey.
July 29 – Censors cut an article about President Aliyev’s visit to the United States.
September 26 – Censors cut two stories.
October 12 – Censors cut a letter from a refugee and an article describing numerous details of illegal sales of military property and construction.
November 7 – Censors substantially cut an article about the work of Parliament deputies.
November 15 – Censors cut an article about the visit of President Heidar Aliyev to Nakhchivan and an interview with one of the leaders of the Party of the National Front, Ali Kerimov.
November 16 – Censors cut an article about Boris Berezovsky.
- Istiglal, newspaper, censored, 1996
Authorities routinely censored Istiglal (Independence), a newspaper of the Social Democratic Party, in 1996. Six out of the 10 issues of the paper published between January 1 and April 30 were censored. In four cases. so many articles were cut that the paper was only half its usual size.
- Khurriyet, newspaper, censored
Government censors repeatedly removed or cut articles in the opposition newspaper Khurriyet in 1996 and 1997. For example:
September 17 – Censors removed an article about former interior minister Iskander Hamidov.
April 15 – Censors cut an article about the arrest of Gamidov.
April 28 – Censors cut an interview with a parliamentary deputy, Shamil Yusifov.
- Millet, newspaper, censored
Government censors repeatedly removed articles and cut material from this opposition newspaper during 1996 and 1997. For example:
June 22 – Censors cut an article on police corruption.
August 22 – Censors cut an article containing allegations of corruption in law enforcement agencies.
August 24 – Censors cut a report about the opposition Musavat party.
November 5 – Censors cut a statement of the opposition Party of National Independence of Azerbaijan about upcoming presidential elections in “self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
November 28 – Censors cut an article about the appointment of the new prime minister.
December 17 – Censors cut an article by the editor in chief of the paper N. Akhmedli titled “Media in Ruins.”
December 24 – Censors removed an article analyzing Azerbaijan’s politics and cut another article on politics.
April 12 – Censors cut material concerning the situation in the media in Azerbaijan.
April 18 – Censors removed an article describing persecution of the leader of the opposition National Independence party.
April 24 – Censors removed two articles – parliament and on the persecution of opposition leader Etibar Mamedov – and replaced them with cartoons.
April 26 – Censors removed an article on the country’s socio-economic woes.
May 17 – Censors cut an article about the political situation in Azerbaijan.
- Mukhalifat, newspaper, censored
Government censors repeatedly subjected this opposition newspaper to cuts and removal of articles during 1996 and 1997. For example:
April 6 – Censors cut an article about the surrender of Kelbajar during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
April 13 – Censors cut an article on the Azerbaijani army’s defeat at Fizuly during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
April 20 – Censors cut three articles – on growing social tension; government personnel policy; and the position of the so-called Round Table, a coalition of opposition parties – and removed one article on high-level government corruption.
April 27 – Censors removed an article on human rights violations in Azerbaijan and substantially cut an article on the trial of the OPON special police forces.
July 17 – Censors banned the printing of the issue. Editor in chief Suleiman Osmanogly explained the action by the fact that in several previous issues the paper had published articles about Azerbaijan’s economic woes that were critical of government officials.
August 10 – Censors removed an article about human rights violations in Azerbaijan. A cartoon was put in its place.
August 24 – Censors removed an article about the opposition Musavat party.
August 28 – Censors removed two articles about human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
September 11 – Censors cut an article on a meeting of President Aliyev with refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh.
September 18 – Censors cut three articles: an interview with a head of the Azerbaijani Culture Society; an interview with the editor in chief of the newspaper Yeni Azerbaijan; and an article on a trial of students accused of distributing forbidden leaflets.
September 21 – Censors cut three articles: an open letter from an imprisoned university teacher to his students; and two articles about the work of the parliament. Cartoons replaced the excised text.
October 5 – Censors removed a statement by the Democratic Congress (an association of opposition parties) about corruption in the government and cut a letter from a man recently released from an Armenian prison.
October 9 – Censors removed an article about the health of the jailed former minister of the interior, I. Gamidov.
October 12 – Censors removed an article about the economy in Nakhchivan and an article about human rights violations in the Azerbaijan.
November 2 – Censors cut an article analyzing Azerbaijan’s politics.
November 9 – Censors cut two articles on abuses by law enforcement agencies.
November 20 – Censors cut an article about abuses by law enforcement agencies.
December 4 – Censors cut an article about private universities in Azerbaijan.
December 7 – Censors substantially cut an article about the results of the OSCE summit in Lisbon.
December 14 – Censors cut a letter to the editor and an article about the use of psychiatry in politics.
December 18 – Censors cut an interview with Eldar Zeinalov, director of the Human Rights Center and an article about a trial of a group charged with a coup attempt.
December 21 – Censors cut four articles: a political analysis; a report on the results of the OSCE summit in Lisbon; a story about abuses by the Ministry of Interior staff; and an article about Azeri-Turkish relations.
December 25 – Censors cut an interview with an attorney; a critical article about the judicial system; and a statement by the Democratic Congress about problems with energy supplies in the country.
December 28 – Censors cut an article about the Azeri national mentality.
April 2 – Censors cut four articles about Azerbaijan’s political situation and persecution of the families of veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
April 12 – Censors cut an article about sales of Russian arms to Armenia. They removed two letters to the editor on Azerbaijani politics from the same issue.
April 15 – Censors removed part of an article on the arrest of former prime minister Suret Husseinov.
April 20 – Censors removed an article about politics and human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
April 22 – Censors cut two articles on politics.
April 23 – Censors cut three articles – on the plight of refugees; the army at the Nagorno-Karabakh front; and on misinterpretation of historical facts.
April 30 – Censors cut an article on the history of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
May 7 – Censors cut part of an investigative report on the occupation of the Azeri town of Shusha in May 1992 by Armenian troops.
May 14 – Censors cut three articles on the situation in southern Azerbaijan (North of Iran) and Azerbaijani politics.
July 3 – Censors cut an article about Azerbaijan’s domestic situation.
July 12 – Censors cut letter’s to the editor and an article about the results of the NATO summit in Madrid.
- Press-Fakt, newspaper, censored
Government censors removed or cut articles from the independent newspaper Press-Fakt on several occasions in 1996 and 1997. For example:
June 28 – Censors removed an article about corruption and financial machinations in the Defense Ministry.
April 25 – Censors cut an interview with ex-president Abulfaz Elchibey.
- Yeni Musavat, newspaper, censored
Government censors repeatedly cut materials for articles or removed articles in their entirety from this opposition newspaper during 1996 and 1997. For example:
February 2 – On the eve of the second round of local elections in Sumgait, police raided electoral headquarters of the Musavat party and confiscated 2,000 copies of the special issue of the newspaper about party leader Isa Gambar.
April 3 – Censors cut an article on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijani independence.
April 5 – Censors removed several articles from the “Drop by Drop” section, which contains quotes from government officials and from official press.
April 9 – Censors removed several articles from the “Drop by Drop” section.
April 16 – Censors removed several articles from the “Drop by Drop” section, as well as a letter to the editor about unlawful actions by customs officers.
April 23 – Censors removed several materials from the “Drop by Drop” section as well as an article about the imprisoned former prime minister Panakh Gusseinov.
April 30 – Censors removed a photograph.
September 17 – Censors cut an interview with the editor in chief of the newspaper 7 Gün.
September 20 – Censors cut sections of three articles: a story about the new Azerbaijan ruling party; an interview with a chairman of the national statehood party; and parts of “Drop by Drop.”
September 27 – Censors cut four articles concerning the country’s political situation and former government officials.
September 27 – The head of the local government ordered the confiscation of the complete print run of the newspaper in Ganja. It contained an article about Ganja’s economic problems that was critical of the city administration.
October 8 – Censors cut four articles about the threat of famine among refugees; the county’s political situation; and material from the “Drop by Drop” section.
November 26 – Censors cut two articles, one on the Liberal Party leader’s plans to sue government newspapers and one on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
November 29 – Censors cut an article on the trial of generals accused in a coup attempt.
December 10 – Censors cut articles about Azerbaijan’s political and about the results of the OSCE summit in Lisbon.
December 13 – Censors cut two articles, one on the fall of Shusha during the Nagorno-Karabakh war and one on the results of the OSCE summit in Lisbon.
December 17 – Censors cut three articles: about the situation of refugees; government corruption; and a trial of a group accused in a coup attempt.
April 4 – Censors cut an article about the arrest of the former speaker of Milli Mejlis Isa Gambar and two articles about Azerbaijan’s political situation.
April 25 – Censors removed part of an article on parliament.
July 1 – Censors cut three articles about Azerbaijan’s political situation and about state television activity.
July 8 – Censors cut an interview with Salakhaddin Alkperov, the deputy chairman of the Musavat party.
- 525t-chi Gezet, newspaper, censored
Government censors removed or cut articles from the independent newspaper on several occasions in 1996 and 1997. For example:
June 5 – Censors cut an article about freedom of speech and the press.
June 19 – Censors cut an analysis of the defeat of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
September 4 – Censors cut an article about human rights in Azerbaijan.
November 14 – Censors cut an analysis of the sociopolitical situation in Azerbaijan.
1997 April 23 – Censors removed an article about human rights violations in Azerbaijan. A cartoon replaced the article.
- 7 Gün, newspaper, censored.
Government censors repeatedly cut material and removed articles from this opposition newspaper in 1996 and 1997. For example:
April 23 – Authorities forced the paper to change the name of its section, “Here Even the Sane Will Become Crazy,” which featured quotes from parliamentarians’ speeches.
June 25 – Censors removed an article containing allegations of corruption among members of the president’s staff.
September 5 – Censors removed a report by the Azerbaijani Center for Human Rights about abuses in prisons and an article on ousted president Abulfaz Elchibey.
September 10 – Censors cut an article about scandals associated with the speaker of the parliament R. Guliyev.
October 8 – Censors cut an article about political struggle in the parliament.
October 18 – Censors removed an article on human rights observers in Azerbaijan.
November 2 – Censors cut an article about personnel policy in the Ministry of Public Health.
November 5 – Censors cut two articles – about the presidential apparatus and about corruption allegations.
November 26 – Censors cut an article about the government-controlled mass media.
November 28 – Censors cut two articles: about arms shipments to Chechnya and terrorism, and about politics.
November 30 – Censors cut an article about the arrest of the former press secretary of the former president Ayaz Mutalibov.
December 3 – Censors cut a political review of the week.
December 10 – Censors cut an article about human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
December 12 – Censors cut an article on about the so-called Round-table, a coalition of opposition parties.
April 26 – Censors removed an article citing various criticisms by opposition politicians on the eve of Azerbaijan’s 1992 presidential elections.
May 1 – Censors cut part of an article on the investigation into the murder of parliamentary deputy Ziya Bunyatov.
May 9 – Censors cut an article on the occupation of the town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh.
July 5 – Censors cut two articles about the liquidation of the Trade and Foreign Economic Relations ministries.
July 8 – Censors removed an article about the plight of the poor in Azerbaijan.
- Valekh Magerramov, Ses, imprisoned, January 15, 1996
Police in the Gakh region arrested Magerramov, the executive secretary of the Baku-based pro-government newspaper Ses, and held him for five hours. The regional police chief, angry at the journalist’s inquiries into a dispute between a local resident and the police, ordered the arrest. After authorities in Baku intervened on his behalf, Magerramov was released.
- Chingiz Sultansoi, Baku State Television, attacked, February 5, 1996
Sultansoi, the chief news editor at the state-run television company Baku and host of the television program “Journalistic Investigation,” was attacked near his home. Sultansoi was able to escape his attackers and suffered only a minor leg injury. He said he had been receiving anonymous threats against him and his family. Before the attack, he hosted a program about the drug problem in Azerbaijan.
- Gunduz Tairli and Kenan Aliyev, Azadliq, harassed, February 7, 1997
The chief prosecutor summoned Gunduz Tairli, editor of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, and one of his reporters, Kenan Aliyev, to answer questions about publication of an investigative piece on government corruption between 1992 and 1994. During the interrogation, the prosecutor demanded that the journalists deny that Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov was involved in the wrongdoing. When the journalists refused, he warned that the next time they published anything similar they would be prosecuted under Article 36 of the Law on Mass Media.
- Tauz regional television, censored, February 11, 1996
The local administration of the Tauz region ordered the electricity for the local television station shut off, halting all broadcasting. The authorities reportedly were unhappy about the way the station’s coverage of their activities. After many complaints and appeals by journalists and citizens, the electricity was restored two days later and the station went back on the air.
- Anya-Zerkalo, harassed, March 10, 1996
Ramiz Akhmedov, a leader of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, and his entourage visited the editorial office of the independent newspaper Ayna-Zerkalo. Akhmedov demanded to know the source of an article about a split in the communist movement published March 8. When the journalists refused to answer, Akhmedov threatened to use “various methods” of reprisal if the newspaper continued to publish similar articles. He did not follow through with his threats.
- Several newspapers, harassed, March 15, 1996
Jallal Aliyev, a member of parliament and a brother of President Heidar Aliyev, accused the opposition press of being “guilty of provocation, hooliganism, and misreporting the situation in the country.” He said Yeni Musavat, Azadliq, Mukhalifat, and 7 Gün were hostile to the state of Azerbaijan and contributed to instability in the country. He called for the closure of opposition newspapers and a ban on their reporters covering parliament.
The Yeni Nesil Journalists Association protested Aliyev’s tirade as an the attack on media freedom.
Later in the year, other deputies made similar statements. On November 30, 1996, Jallal Aliyev accused several media outlets of treason. He called for amendments to the Law on Mass Media to “prevent such instances.”
- Azer Husseinbala, Azadliq; Tapdyg Farkhadoglu, Turan News Agency, censored, March 16, 1996
Husseinbala, a parliamentary correspondent for the opposition newspaper Azadliq, and Farkhadoglu, a reporter for the independent news agency Turan, were stripped of their parliamentary press accreditation after President Heidar Aliyev’s brother Djalal Aliyev, a member of parliament, publicly criticized the independent media in Azerbaijan. Husseinbala had recently written an article about parliament. Turan’s monthly parliamentary bulletin had come under fire from Djalal Aliyev shortly before Farkhadoglu lost his credentials. Djalal Aliyev called for the closure of all opposition newspapers.
- Agasi Mamedov, Mukhalifat, imprisoned, March 17, 1996
Mamedov, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Mukhalifat, was detained in the Balakan region and brought to Baku. He was released that day, after three hours in detention. Balakan police said Mamedov was arrested as he attempted to cross the Azeri-Georgian border. According to press monitors, that charge was a pretext for bringing the journalist back to Baku from the provinces, where he was gathering information critical of the government.
- All media in Ganja, censored, March 27, 1996
Police confiscated all newspapers in the town of Ganja for one day. The reason was believed to be an article on the chief of police, Natig Efendiev, published in the newspaper Femida.
- Kemal Ali, Yeni Musavat, attacked, April 11, 1996
Chingiz Ganiyev, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Committee for Human Rights, physically attacked and beat Ali, a reporter for the opposition Yeni Musavat, at the editor’s office. Ali later denied the incident, saying the conflict was settled in a “civilized way,” although his colleagues confirmed the beating.
- ANS television company, censored, April 16, 1996
Police prevented a crew from the independent ANS TV from filming at the Baku airport. ANS had planned to cover the arrival of Ragim Kaziev, a former defense minister who had been sentenced to death in absentia. A crew from Azerbaijan state television was allowed to work without interference.
- Yashar Tezel, Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), imprisoned, April 16, 1996
Tezel, a reporter for Turkish Radio, was arrested in Baku while riding in a car with former Azerbaijani prime minister Panakh Gusseinov, who was wanted by the police for misappropriation of government property and was also arrested. Tezel had arrived in Baku four days earlier to cover the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz. He was due to return to Turkey on April 17.
The journalist was charged with “concealing crimes against the state” and resisting police. Police beat Tezel during his detention at the 16th Police Station.
At the end of May, Tezel’s health had deteriorated and he was hospitalized. In early June, his lawyer said Tezel had suffered two heart attacks since the arrest. President Heidar Aliyev ordered the journalist to be freed on June 21, after a delegation from the Azeri ethnic Turkish region of Igdir presented him with a petition signed by more than 5,000 people calling for Tezel’s release.
- Khalid Askerov, Reuters; Agasi Mamedov, Reuters, censored, April 26, 1996
The administrator of the Ajdarbek mosque refused to allow cameraman Askerov and photographer Mamedov to film a special ceremony in honor of the late Chechen president Jokhar Dudaev. He threatened to call the Ministry of Security and “let it know about the journalists’ behavior.” The journalists were forcibly removed from the mosque.
- Elchin Husseinbeili, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; two reporters from Khurriyet; reporter from Jumhurriyet, imprisoned, May 10, 1996
Husseinbeili, a correspondent for the Azeri-language service of Radio Liberty; two reporters from the Khurriyet newspaper; and a reporter from the newspaper Jumhurriyet, were arrested during a demonstration at the Iranian embassy in Baku protesting human rights violations in Iran.
Police held the reporters at a police station for four hours, claiming the journalists had no right to “mingle with people taking part in an illegal political demonstration.”
- Mukhalifat, censored, May 20, 1996
Regional authorities confiscated and burned all copies of the newspaper Mukhalifat in the town of Beylagan. The reason for the action was said to be an article on local economic problems and crime.
- Fakhraddin Jumayev, Khalg Gazeti, censored, May 23, 1996
Acting on orders of the Minister of Education, guards forced Jumayev, a correspondent for the newspaper Khalg Gazeti, to leave a Ministry of Education meeting. The previous day, the paper had published an article about problems in Azerbaijan’s education system.
- Avrasia, newspaper, censored, June 14, 1996
Authorities confiscated a complete print run of the newspaper in the Massalin region. The issue included an article about the destruction of 69 tons of marijuana in the region and the killing of a local man, Eldar Sadykhov, by police.
- Metin Yasar Oglu, Mukhalifat, harassed, July 26, 1996
Police detained Yasar Oglu, a journalist with the opposition newspaper Mukhalifat, while he was attempting to cover a demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Baku, the Azeri capital. The demonstrators were protesting the reported mistreatment of Azeris in Moscow and other Russian cities. Police dispersed the rally. Yasar Oglu was held for four hours. His camera and other equipment were damaged.
- Avrasia, newspaper, censored, August 1, 1996
Acting Minister of Information and Press Nariman Hasanzade sent a letter to the director of the Azerbaijan publishing house ordering the suspension of the independent Avrasia. He said the newspaper published materials of a “provocational character.” The publishing house did not print the newspaper the next day. The ministry told the paper’s editor that the ban resulted from six articles concerning sensitive issues, including the condition of the army; and Azeri foreign relations, in particular with Russia (persecution of Azeris in Russia, status of the Russian radar station in Gabala), and Iran, and on Russian-Georgian relations.
On August 7, 1996, the Ministry of Information and Press submitted a request to the Yasamalin region district court to suspend the publication of the newspaper for six months. CPJ protested the government’s pressure on the independent newspaper.
The paper’s lawyer denied allegations that Avrasia’s articles inflamed inter-ethnic hatred and called for the overthrow of constitutional regime. He said because all articles in the newspaper were approved by censors, the article could not have been published without the consent of government officials. He requested information from the Department for the Protection of State Secrets. The court could not obtain that information, however, because officially there is no censorship in Azerbaijan. The hearings adjourned.
After a meeting on August 24, 1996, with the head of Presidential Administration, Irfan Sapmaz, the editor in chief of Avrasia, said they had reached a compromise. He acknowledged that the newspaper had made a few mistakes. In exchange for his public statement he received permission to resume publication.
On September 11, 1996, the newspaper resumed publication.
- All print media, threatened, September 11, 1996
Agali Ismailov, director general of the state distribution company Gasid, sent a letter to the chief of the Baku city police formally requesting a ban on distribution of all newspapers on the streets and subway stations by independent vendors. Police subsequently began to extort money from street vendors in exchange for allowing them to continue selling newspapers despite the order. Independent vendors are a vital means of distribution for independent and opposition newspapers in Baku.
- TV stations in Divichinsky, Gusarsky, and Shamakhinsky regions, censored, September 15, 1996
Regional authorities suspended the work of the regional television stations in the Divichinsky, Gusarsky, and Shamakhinsky regions. According to the stations’ staffs, the authorities did not provide an explanation, but simply referred to “orders from the top.” Journalists later learned that acting Minister of Justice S. Gasanova ordered the closure in a letter sent June 26 to the heads of the regional administrations demanding that they shut down all non-governmental television stations until adoption of a new broadcasting law. Two weeks later, the regional authorities received a second letter of this kind from a minister of the Aliyev government.
The Yeni Nesil journalists association said that these actions violated Azerbaijan’s Law on Mass Media and as well as international norms.
- Tazadlar, newspaper, threatened, September 20, 1996
The Ministry of Information and Press officially warned the independent newspaper in a letter that if it continued to violate the law, the ministry would suspend its publication. The letter did not point to any specific violations, but the editor in chief said he believed that the letter was prompted by the ironic tone it used in its description of government officials in some articles.
- Natella Bairamova, Mukhalifat, threatened, harassed, September 23, 1996
Police in Nakhchivan arrested and beat the brothers of Natella Bairamova, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Mukhalifat. Bairamova said that shortly before the arrest she had published an article on human rights abuses and social and economic problems in the Nakhchivan region that was critical of the local authorities.
On December 1, police detained Bairamova at the Baku airport as she was preparing to depart for Nakhchivan and prevented her from boarding the plane. Bairamova reported that police were following orders to keep her from entering the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan.
- Reporters from TV program “Den,” attacked, October 3, 1996
Butchers at marketplace No. 6 in Baku attacked two reporters from the state television program “Den,” beating them and smashing their video camera. The incident occurred while the journalists were reporting about the sale of contaminated meat. State television officials decided not to request a police investigation into the case, because they did not want to call attention to “shameful facts that may be damaging to our country.”
- Tapdyg Farkhadoglu, Turan news agency, attacked, November 17, 1996
A group of men in plain clothes attacked Farkhadoglu, a reporter for the independent news agency Turan, near Freedom Square in the center of Baku. Farkhadoglu had just interviewed an opposition leader. He said that when he showed his attackers his press card, they beat him more severely.
Several policemen were nearby at the time of the attack looking on, and when one of them expressed concern, one of the attackers told him to be quiet because it was a “special operation.” The reporter’s glasses and microphone were broken and when the beating was over his body and face were covered with bruises and scratches.
When Farkhadoglu went to the Sabail police station to report the attack, he saw the person he identified as the ringleader of the attack: Hafiz Rzayev, head of the 39th police precinct. Rzayev had kicked him, broken his glasses, and insulted him.
Farkhadoglu filed a complaint with the Minister of the Interior and the chief prosecutor. On November 21, the minister met with Farkhadoglu and the managing editor of Turan in the presence of the Baku police chief. He said the beating had damaged the reputation of the ministry, the Azerbaijani state, and its police force, and assured Farkhadoglu that he would take steps to find and punish those responsible.
Although the prosecutor began a criminal investigation on November 28, 1996, the investigation was closed on January 28, 1997, for lack of evidence. After weeks of complaints by Farkhadoglu and his lawyer and protest letters from international press freedom organizations and domestic groups, the case was reopened on April 16, 1997, on the orders of the Baku prosecutor’s office.
- Matanat Agamirova, Press-Fakt, attacked, November 22, 1996
Agamirova, a correspondent for the newspaper Press-Fakt, was denied entry into parliament on orders of the speaker. Officials informed the reporter that she had lost her accreditation. Agamirova had written a critical article about the cafeteria in the parliament building. Agamirova regained her accreditation on November 29 after appeals by journalists and press freedom groups.
- Elchin Seljug, Azadliq; Azadliq, censored, November 25, 1996
The chairman of the Main Department for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press ordered the newspaper Azadliq to remove reporter Seljug’s articles concerning the dismissal of the prime minister and speaker of parliament. On November 26, the newspaper printed a cartoon instead of Seljug’s articles, in compliance with the government’s prohibition against leaving blank spaces where editorial material has been censored. CPJ appealed to President Heidar Aliyev to reinstate Husseinbala’s parliamentary accreditation and to ensure an end to government censorship of the media.
- Azer Husseinbala, Azadliq, legal action, December 3, 1996
Husseinbala, a correspondent for the newspaper Azadliq, was stripped of his accreditation by the new speaker of parliament, Murtuz Aleskerov. The action was in violation of Azerbaijan’s media law, which says a journalist cannot be stripped of accreditation without a court order. Aleskerov said Husseinbala had “negatively assessed the processes taking place in the republic” in several satirical articles. Aleskerov threatened to do the same to other reporters. When a group of 23 Azeri journalists requested a reversal of his decision, Aleskerov said their appeal was “wrong.”
January 6, 1997: Aleskerov requested that a court strip Husseinbala of his accreditation. Journalists organizations protested the request as illegal, because the law on mass media stipulates that parliament can strip a journalist of accreditation only if a court rules that the journalists’ work has damaged the plaintiff’s dignity. Aleskerov quickly changed the wording of the suit, and on January 10, the Sabailsky district court upheld the plaintiff’s claim and ruled that Husseinbala’s articles damaged Aleskerov’s dignity and honor.
- Jumkhurriyet, newspaper, censored, February 13, 1997
Authorities suspended publication of the weekly newspaper of the opposition Party of the Popular Front for four consecutive weeks. The printing house provided no explanation for their refusal to publish the paper. On March 8, the facility resumed publication of Jumkhurriyet.
- Leila Ismailova, Turan News Agency, attacked, February 20, 1997
L. Muradov, director of the Ganjlik summer youth center near Baku; S. Guseinov, a Ministry of Youth and Sport official; and U. Abdullaev, a participant in a world checkers tournament taking place at the youth center, attacked Leila Ismailova, a correspondent for the Turan News Agency, on the grounds of the center. When Ismailova, who was covering the tournament, asked Muradov, Guseinov, and Abdullaev about allegations of cheating at the tournament, they started to beat her. Guseinov, who was visibly drunk, kicked Ismailova. After the beating, the assailants forced Ismailova off the center grounds. She did not file charges.
- Avrasia, newspaper, harassed, April 11, 1997
The Azeri ambassador to Iran said the newspaper Avrasia “misinterpreted” his trip to Iran. He threatened to file suit against the newspaper. He did not follow through with his threat.
- Mustajab Mutalimoglu, Yeni Musavat, harassed, April 18, 1997
Mutalimoglu, a regional correspondent for the opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat, was fired by Astara authorities from his job at the local newspaper Astara. The journalist said he was fired and harassed because of an article he wrote and published in the March 4-6 issue of Yeni Musavat that was critical of regional authorities. He said he received several threats from supporters of the head of the regional administration. Yeni Musavat published an appeal signed by a group of opposition Popular Front members demanding an end to the harassment of the journalist.
- Elchin Seljuk, Azadliq, imprisoned, May 4, 1997
Police arrested Seljuk, a correspondent for the opposition newspaper Azadliq, in the Nakhchivan airport on charges of being “a suspicious person.” The journalist was detained upon his return to Baku from a village in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, where the former president, Abulfaz Elchibey, lives. After a one-day investigation, Seljuk was accused of “ill-treatment of the police.” A judge fined him 22,000 manat (around US$5) and he was allowed to return to Baku.
- Irena Seidova, Panorama, threatened, May 13, 1997
Seidova, a reporter for the newspaper Panorama, was in the Baku airport on her way home from Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 13 when she decided to write a story about the work of Baku airport customs. After she had taken several photographs of people standing in line at customs, police asked her and other journalists who were returning with Seidova from an international media seminar in Tbilisi to talk with the head of airport security. He demanded that Seidova expose the film. Seidova refused to obey, and after pressure from the other journalists present, the police dropped the demand.
- Israfil Agayev, Lenkaran Hayaty, imprisoned, May 15, 1997
The district court of the Yasamalinski region sentenced Agayev to three years in prison for “spreading libel against public officials of the region.” During the three months he worked for the regional newspaper, Agayev published several articles about the former prosecutor of the region, Nazim Tagiyev, who was then working in the national prosecutor’s office. The court called Agayev’s articles libelous.
- Kamal Ali, Anya-Zerkalo, attacked
Khalg correspondent, threatened
Bakinsky Rabochii correspondent, threatened
Other reporters, threatened, June 6, 1997
During a session of the Azerbaijani parliament, an employee of the State Agency for Security slapped Ali, a correspondent for the newspaper Ayna-Zerkalo, in the face. “The journalist was speaking too loudly with his colleagues,” the guard said. The unidentified guard threatened to use physical force against other journalists who defended Ali. The guard did not stop his harassment until parliament members and the Security Service chief intervened. The guard was forced to apologize. On the same day, the guard also threatened correspondents from the newspapers Khalg and Bakinsky Rabochii.
- Talekh Zafarli, Chag, attacked, June 10, 1997
Natik Aleskerov, a member of the opposition Party of the Popular Front, insulted and beat Zafarli, editor of the newspaper Chag. Zafarli said that a few days earlier, former prime minister Panakh Gusseinov, one of the leaders of the Popular Front, had threatened him. According to Zafarli, the attacks probably stemmed from a series of critical articles he wrote about a split within the Party of the Popular Front.
- Iranian state television, censored, June 22, 1997
Officials suspended retransmission of Iranian television programs in Azerbaijan on June 22. Nizami Khudiev, the chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Television and Radio, said that it was a “temporary measure” aimed at preventing the broadcast of provocative anti-Azerbaijani programs which distort historical truth and incite inter-ethnic division. Khudiev said that the Iranian broadcasts would remain off the air until Iran and Azerbaijan reached agreement on a treaty ensuring reciprocal broadcasts of Azerbaijani television in Iran.
- Jeihun Nasibov, Ayna Azer Rashidoglu, Azadliq, harassed, censored, June 30, 1997
Police confiscated tape recorders from Nasibov and Rashidoglu, who were covering the congress of the Azerbaijan Communist Party. The journalists then were pushed out of the congress hall.
Police returned the equipment the same day but the recorded cassettes had been removed. Afig Shukyurov, deputy chief of administration of the Sabunchi region, said that the regional prosecutor’s office would study the tapes and if they did not contain “anti-state speeches,” they would be given back to the reporters. The tapes were not returned.
- Azadliq newspaper, harassed, July 1, 1997
Military censors at a special agency in the president’s administration demanded that Gunduz Tairli, editor of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, provide them with the addresses and home telephone numbers of all the newspaper’s staff, or they would ban the newspaper. Tairli refused to obey the order. No reprisals followed.
- All media, censored, July 8, 1997
Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov ordered all police in Azerbaijan not to provide any information to the media without the permission of the ministry’s press center. The official explanation for the order was that “recently a number of low-quality criminal stories were published in provincial newspapers.”
- Irena Lasota, Uncaptive Minds, harassed;
ANS television, censored, July 12, 1997
Lasota, an editor of the Washington, D.C.-based quarterly Uncaptive Minds, was traveling to Nakhchivan, an enclave of Azerbaijan. As Lasota was preparing to board a plane to Baku, several uniformed men approached her and asked what she was doing in Nakhchivan. She replied that she was visiting former President Elchibey in the village of Kelaki. The men asked whether Lasota had any video or audio cassettes or rolls of film with her, which she denied. They took her to a room where a police inspector told her that her bags would be searched for interviews or photographs of the former president. After failing to find anything in her baggage, the inspector said: “We will find the people who are bringing the cassettes to you and we will get them.” Lasota was then permitted to board the plane.
- Ali Hajikuliyev, Jumkhurriyet, attacked, July 25, 1997
Police beat Hajikuliyev, the executive secretary of the opposition newspaper Jumkhurriyet, on a subway platform in Baku.
Hajikuliyev said the incident began when policemen stopped him in the subway and demanded to see his identification. The officer was rude and Hajikuliyev said he asked for more polite treatment. In response, the officer slapped him several times and tore his shirt. A few more police officers joined their colleague and threw Hajikuliyev’s press card to the floor. He demanded the policemen identify themselves and told them he would file a complaint with police, the Interior Ministry, and the Azeri president. The police swore at him and used foul language about journalism and the president.
Hajikuliyev filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry. The ministry refused to investigate the case.
- Millet, newspaper, threatened, November 2, 1997
The Ministry of Information and Press warned the opposition newspaper that it was in danger of suspension of its publication because it had violated Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media. Nazir Akhmedli, editor in chief of the paper, said that the warning stemmed from an article published in the paper on October 29 titled “Mass Famine in Azerbaijan.”