Azerbaijani political emigrants demand the release of arrested journalists

Azerbaijani political emigrants demand the release of arrested journalists

The Azerbaijani Civil Coalition in Exile (AZEX), represented by the Institute for Human Rights (IHR) and the Institute for Freedom of Reporters' Safety (RFSI), condemned the Azerbaijani authorities for a wave of repression against journalists, human rights defenders and opposition activists on the eve of the early presidential elections of Azerbaijan.

In its statement, the Coalition called on Head of State Ilham Aliyev to immediately release all his critics, as well as ensure all fundamental freedoms necessary for free and fair elections in the country. AZEX expresses concern about the brutality of the latest repressions against freedom of speech, during which journalists have been arrested over the past two months: Ulvi Hasanli, Mohammad Kekalov, Sevinj Vagifgizy, Nargiz Absalamova, Hafiz Babaly, Elnara Gasimova, Teymur Kerimov, Shamo Eminov, Aziz Orujev, Arshad Ibrahimova, Ibrahim Humbatov, Elnara Gasimova, Gabil Veliyev and Shahin Rzayev.

"Although all these journalists are charged with absurd accusations of receiving illegal financing from abroad, the real reason for their persecution is high-profile anti-corruption investigations and publications revealing systematic and massive violations of the socio-economic and political rights of Azerbaijani citizens," AZEX co-chairman Emin Huseynov said.

The Coalition also recalls the arrest of critics of the government - journalist Avaz Zeynalli, human rights activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, eco-activist Nazim Beidemirli and academic economist Gubad Ibadoglu.

The coalition believes that the Azerbaijani authorities intend to completely destroy independent civil society institutions in the next two years.

AZEX is also concerned about the indifference and tacit inaction of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Maria Pejcinovic-Buric, who visited Azerbaijan in December 2023, having held meetings with the country's leadership, and did not meet with journalists and human rights defenders.

Since her penultimate visit to Azerbaijan in April 2022 (when she also did not meet with civil society), the number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has increased almost two and a half times, amounting to about 240 people.

AZEX is also disappointed by the lack of public reaction to the mass arrests of journalists in Azerbaijan by OSCE Special Representative for Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro, who has refused to respond to the repression of the Azerbaijani authorities against independent media in recent months.

At the same time, AZEX welcomes the recent statement by the European External Relations Service, which expressed concern about the arbitrary detention of journalists, human rights defenders and activists.

Considering the clear repressive attitude of the authorities towards civil society, AZEX called on the OSCE leaders to re-evaluate the pre-election situation as impossible for objective local and international monitoring and to curtail the ODIHR mission/the OSCE is monitoring the presidential elections in Azerbaijan.

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