OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today condemned the recent killing of journalist Rasim Aliyev in Azerbaijan, following a letter she wrote to the President of Azerbaijan, calling on the authorities to ensure journalists’ safety and reverse the rapidly deteriorating media freedom situation in the country.
According to reports, Aliyev, a freelance reporter and former employee of the media monitoring group the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety in Azerbaijan, was brutally beaten by a group of people in Baku on 8 August. He suffered multiple injuries and died in hospital on 9 August.
“This latest tragic incident once again proves it is high time that the authorities heed the warnings of international organizations and the calls of civil society to engage in meaningful dialogue and stop denying the seriousness of the situation,” Mijatović wrote in a letter today to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
The Representative noted President Aliyev’s condemnation of the act and his calling for an investigation. Mijatović said she raised the issue of intimidation and imprisonment of journalists and members of the media in Azerbaijan numerous times during the past year, including the issue of impunity from prosecution of assailants.
“Unfortunately, almost nothing has been done,” Mijatović wrote in her letter to the President. “The latest tragic death of Rasim Aliyev is the ultimate reminder to all of us that the vicious circle has to be broken and something has to be done.”
More than ten members of the media, including journalists, bloggers and social media activists, are in prison or in pre-trial detention today in Azerbaijan. They include:
Khadija Ismayilova, a reporter for Radio Azadliq, on charges of inciting a person to commit suicide, illegal business dealings and abuse of power;
Rasul Jafarov, a free expression and free media advocate and human rights defender, on charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, abuse of power;
Seymur Hazi, a columnist for the newspaper Azadliq, on a charge of hooliganism;
Omar Mamedov and Abdul Abilov, bloggers, on charges of illegal storage and sale of drugs;
Parviz Hashimli, a journalist, on charges of smuggling and illegal storage and sale of firearms;
Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the azadxeber.az news website, on various charges, including drug possession and inciting hatred;
Rashad Ramazanov, an independent blogger, on charges of illegal storage and sale of drugs.
The Representative also pointed to the fact that the perpetrators are still at large in the cases of Elmar Huseynov, the founder and editor of the independent weekly news magazine Monitor who was killed in 2005, and Rafiq Taghi, writer and newspaper columnist who died after being stabbed by an attacker in 2011.
The Representative reiterated her offer to assist Azerbaijan in much-needed improvements to media freedom and safety of journalists.