Continuous Harassment Threatens Existence of Independent Media in Azerbaijan, says OSCE Representative
Azerbaijan, Baku / corr Trend E.Huseynov / The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, expressed his concern over the eviction of the country's two main independent newspapers from their premises, and new procedures against their imprisoned editor, Eynulla Fatullayev, an official statement placed at OSCE website on 23 May reads.
On 20 May, the Ministry for Emergency Situations forcibly evacuated the staff of Realniy Azerbaijan and Gundalik Azarbaycan from their offices. Newspaper production has not taken place since their eviction and it is unclear when printing will resume.
"The eviction paralyses Azerbaijan's largest and most popular newspapers, in a clear attempt to fully silence them. This is part of an ongoing campaign to do away with independent journalism," said Haraszti.
He noted the evacuation authorities had cited the reason as alleged danger of "structural deficiencies" in the 13-storey building, but had not evicted any other tenants.
"I have also received worrying news that since the eviction the newspapers' servers and archives are being searched by national security personnel. All this represents an openly oppressive stance, going beyond the previously seen discriminatory treatment of independent media," Haraszti added.
Reportedly, the search warrants were based on a new criminal case against the papers' founder and editor, Eynulla Fatullayev, already convicted last month for 'defamation of a village and of the army'.
"I call on the authorities to stop persecuting the remaining free press in Azerbaijan and ensure that Realniy Azerbaijan and Gundalik Azarbaycan can resume their work," said Haraszti.
Over the last few months, and during his visit to Baku where he met President Ilham Aliyev, the OSCE Representative had expressed his concern several times over the deteriorating state of freedom of the media in Azerbaijan,
Seven Azerbaijani journalists are presently in prison, the majority of them charged with slander.