5 journalists were arrested in 10 days. What's happening?
In the past 10 days, Azerbaijan has witnessed the arrest of five journalists, marking a concerning trend in the country's approach to media freedom. On November 20, Ulvi Hasanli, the director of AbzasMedia, and his assistant, Mohammad Kekalov, were apprehended, followed by the detention of the editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizy on the 21st. Subsequently, each of them faced charges related to smuggling, resulting in a court-imposed four-month preventive arrest.
On November 27, Aziz Orujev, the executive director of Internet television Channel 13, became the latest journalist to be detained. He faces a criminal case under Article 188.2 of the Criminal Code, related to unauthorized construction or installation work on a land plot without ownership, use, or lease. A court decision sentenced him to three months of pre-trial detention.
The most recent incident involves Nargiz Absalamova, another employee of AbzasMedia, who was detained yesterday, reportedly charged with smuggling.
Human rights activist Rufat Safarov expressed his concerns about these developments on the "Difficult Question" program, comparing the situation in Azerbaijan to that of Turkmenistan. Safarov highlighted a heightened level of repressiveness, with an increase in political prisoners, reaching 254 since 2003.
According to Safarov, the ruling circles in Azerbaijan seem to have declared a war on citizens' rights and freedoms, targeting journalists, human rights defenders, civil society representatives, and economists. He attributed this crackdown to the strained relations with the West, resulting in the unjust pressure on innocent citizens, particularly those educated in Western countries who are now portrayed as spies in the media and social networks.
Safarov emphasized that the authorities are implementing more stringent measures to exert control over society, describing the current situation as a "witch hunt," characteristic of states prioritizing strict authoritarian rule. He noted that such regimes often resort to far-fetched accusations and alleged assassination attempts as part of their tactics.