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Azerbaijan's Press Crackdown, Journalists Targeted for Exposing Truth: BBC Reports on Crackdown


Azerbaijan's Press Crackdown, Journalists Targeted for Exposing Truth: BBC Reports on Crackdown

The state of freedom of press and speech in Azerbaijan came under scrutiny as BBC News reported on the arrest of journalists delving into corruption allegations involving the circle of President Ilham Aliyev.


According to reports, Azerbaijani authorities detained Ulvi Hasanli, the director of Abzas Media, early Monday in Baku, alleging unlawful money transfer into the country. This action prompted concerns and calls for his release from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and various media advocacy groups.


Hasanli's lawyer, Zibeyda Sadygova, revealed that Hasanli was apprehended outside his apartment, followed by a police raid on Abzas Media's offices. The authorities claimed to have discovered 40,000 Euros (approximately US$43,770) in the office premises.


Abzas Media, in a Facebook statement, attributed Hasanli's arrest and the raid to President Aliyev's purported pressure on the outlet. They highlighted the investigative reports conducted by the media house into alleged corruption crimes involving the President and his appointed officials.


Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, CPJ's Advocacy and Communications Director in New York, condemned the crackdown on Abzas Media, noting that it appears to be a retaliatory move against the outlet's investigative journalism.


Article 206.3.2 of Azerbaijan's criminal code could subject Hasanli to an eight-year prison sentence if convicted for unlawfully bringing money into the country. Hasanli attempted to leave the country but was allegedly detained by masked men and taken to the Baku City Police Department. Reports indicated that he faced physical assault and questioning about Abzas Media's corruption-related coverage.


Amidst claims by Abzas Media staff that the money found by the police was not related to Hasanli or the outlet, there were suspicions that it was planted to justify potential charges.


The arrest of Hasanli and the raid on Abzas Media follow a pattern of crackdowns against independent media in Azerbaijan since 2014. Several independent outlets faced raids, arrests, and investigations, significantly limiting press freedom in the country.


Despite attempts by CPJ to seek comments from Azerbaijani authorities, including the Baku Police Department and the President's Office, there have been no responses.


The arrest of journalists and the crackdown on independent media continue to raise concerns about the state of press freedom and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, prompting widespread calls for the immediate release of Ulvi Hasanli and an end to harassment against media outlets.



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