Azerbaijan: Media in peril as authorities continue to harass and jail journalists

    Azerbaijan: Media in peril as authorities continue to harass and jail journalists

    Sept 19, Baku:  Journalists belonging to an independent news outlet Meydan TV have been harassed and jailed by government authorities according to reports late Friday evening.

    According to local reports this week a reporter Shirin Abbasov, was imprisoned, after authorities searched his home. The television outlet also stated that another two of their journalists had also faced the same fate. "This week's developments in Azerbaijan are outrageous, and we urge the authorities to release Shirin Abbasov and other imprisoned journalists," said Europe and CPJ's Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. "Authorities must stop harassing Meydan TV and journalists who report for the outlet. Journalism is not a crime."

    According to a statement issued by CPJ, Abbasov was sentenced on Thursday to 30 days in jail on an administrative charge of disobeying police orders, the independent news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.Reports said that Abbasov went missing on his way to university on September 16. Authorities initially denied they were holding him when approached by a legal representative for the journalist's family, according to reports.
    Meanwhile, in two separate incidents on Friday, police in Baku searched the apartment of Meydan TV contributor Javid Abdullayev, and detained freelance photographer Ahmed Mukhtar, who contributes to a magazine affiliated with U.K.-based press freedom group Index on Censorship and whose brother works for Meydan TV, reports said.

    Reports further claim that he was released late Friday evening. In a statement, Index on Censorship said several relatives of Meydan TV journalists have been arrested recently. According to independent news website Contact, police confiscated two computers and three cameras from Abdullayev's apartment in connection to Abbasov's case.

    During Azerbaijan's crackdown on the media last year Meydan TV, which is known for its critical reporting on government corruption as well as press freedom and human rights abuses, closed its Baku newsroom, news reports said. The outlet is currently produced from Germany, using contributors in Azerbaijan.

    According to CPJ, Abbasov's sentence raises the number of imprisoned reporters in Azerbaijan to nine, cementing the oil-rich nation's position as a leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia, CPJ research shows. CPJ and other rights groups have repeatedly urgedPresident Ilham Aliyev to end his country's repression of the media and to release all imprisoned journalists, including award-winning reporter Khadija Ismayilova.

    The Oslo Times