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TIMELINE OF GOVERNMENT PRESSURE ON MEDIA IN 2017

This article was published on 03 January 2018 at 12:39 AM. It has 280 views so far.

On 9 January, officers from police station No 22 of the Nasimi district police department detained videoblogger Mehman Huseynov. On 10 January, he was brought before court and fined 200 manats after being found guilty of disobeying police.

He told reporters he was tortured while in custody.

M. Musayev, the chief of the Nasimi district police department, said that this statement by Huseynov libeled the police, and filed a special lawsuit. Following the lawsuit, the Surakhani district court sentenced Mehman Huseynov to two years in prison on 3 March.

Anar Hasanov, Lider TV’s Moscow correspondent, was dismissed from his job because of a question he put to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The question he asked the minister at a news conference – “if Azerbaijan launches anti-terror operations and liberates the occupied lands, what will Moscow do – will it turn a blind eye to that or will it interfere with Azerbaijan’s internal affairs” – was one of the main talking points.

February

On 7 February, blogger Mehman Galandarov was sentenced to three months of arrest. He was charged under Article 234.2 of the Criminal Code (illegal acquisition or possession, preparation, production, processing, transporting, or sending of narcotics or psychotropic substances with the purpose of selling them, or illegal sale of narcotics or psychotropic substances). The blogger rejected the charges and said he was arrested because he had participated in anti-government rallies in Baku and Tbilisi.

He died in custody later.

– Elchin Ismayilli, a journalist from Ismayilli, was arrested on 17 February 2017. He was accused of threatening officials in Ismayilli District that he would circulate defamatory information about them unless they paid him.

Ismayilli rejects the accusations. He says he had borrowed the 1,000 manats that were found on him when he was detained.

The journalist was charged under articles 182 (using threats to extort money), 308 (abuse of office) and 311 (taking a bribe) of the Criminal Code.

On 18 September, the Shaki Court for Serious Crimes sentenced him to nine years in prison. The court also banned Ismayilli from holding certain posts for a period of three years.

March

On 3 March, the military detained journalist Ilgar Valiyev while he was filming in the village of Chiragli in Agdam District. Valiyev’s defense lawyer said he was tortured when he was detained.

On 17 March, amendments were made to the law of the Azerbaijan Republic “On information, provision of information and protection of information”. The amendments allow executive bodies to shut down websites without a court ruling.

April

On 5 April, the Supreme Court reviewed a cassation complaint filed by ANS regarding the termination of the license of ANS ÇM radio station. The court rejected the appeal filed by ANS. Thus, the television channel and the radio station came back empty-handed from all agencies in Azerbaijan.

On 29 April, blogger Mehman Galandarov reportedly committed suicide in Kurdakhani remand facility.

May

Aziz Orujov, the executive director of Kanal 13 web-based TV, was detained on 2 May on charges of resisting police. He was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention. On the day he was to be released – 1 June, the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the Prosecutor-General’s Office launched a criminal case against him. He was charged under articles 192 (illegal entrepreneurship) and 308 (abuse of office). On the same day, the Nasimi district court sentenced him to four months of arrest.

On 12 May, the Sabail district court ruled to block access in Azerbaijan to azadliq.org, the website of Radio Liberty; azadliq.info, the website of Azadliq newspaper; the websites of Meydan TV and Turan TV and the website of “Azerbaijan Hour” television program.

On 23 May, journalist Nijat Amiraslanov, who lives in Gazakh District, was arrested for 30 days. He was punished for allegedly violating Article 535.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.

On May 29, independent journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who lived in Tbilisi, was brought to Azerbaijan in mysterious circumstances. The journalist says he was abducted in Tbilisi, had a sack pulled over his head, tortured, and brought to Azerbaijan by force and that 10,000 euros were planted in his pocket while he was being transferred through the border.

However, Azerbaijan launched a criminal case against him under articles 315 (use of force to resist a government representative), 318.1 (illegal crossing of the border) and 206.1 (smuggling).

June

Independent journalists who were accused of collaborating with Meydan TV were interrogated at the Serious Crimes Investigation Department regarding Afghan Mukhtarli’s case.

On 14 June, journalist Fikret Faramazoglu, the director of jam.az, was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was charged under Article 182 of the Criminal Code. The journalist is accused of using threats to extort money from the owners of different restaurants and catering facilities. However, the journalist rejects the accusations and says that he was arrested for unmasking brothels that operated under the disguise of restaurants or massage parlors. He says that those places operate under the protection of officials.

July

On 22 July, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev presented apartments to more than 200 journalists.

August

On 8 August, the Tax Ministry began a mobile tax inspection of Turan News Agency. The ministry claimed that the news agency had evaded paying 60,000 manats in taxes.

On 24 August, Mehman Aliyev, the director of Turan News Agency, was detained. The next day, he was charged under articles 213.1 (tax evasion), 308.1 (abuse of office) and 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship).

On 31 August, Turan News Agency announced that it stopped operating as a commercial entity.

September

On 5 September, the Bilasuvar District Court sentenced Ziya Asadli, a regional correspondent of Azadliq newspaper, to three years in prison. In May, a criminal case had been launched against him under Article 221.3 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism with the use of a weapon or an item used as a weapon).

On 29 September, Khadija Ismayil, an investigative journalist who works for Radio Liberty, received the Allard Prize established by the School of Law of Canada’s University of British Columbia.

ATV, which is known as an Azerbaijani entertainment channel, changed hands in September. The director of the channel, Vugar Garadagli, and his team were dismissed, while Azer Khalilov, the director of CBC channel, which is owned by SOCAR, was put in his place. His brother Vugar Khalilov was appointed to CBC.

October

On 2 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) released a statement that said that it had started looking into a complaint filed by nine journalists and six lawyers and social and political activists who had been banned from traveling outside the country.

– On 14 October, journalist Fikret Huseynli, a Dutch citizen of Azerbaijani origin, was detained in Kiev’s Boryspil airport on his way from Ukraine to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Huseynli was detained on the basis of an Interpol alert request by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was said to have charged him under Article 318 (illegal crossing of the state border of the Azerbaijan Republic) and 178 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code.

On 17 October, the Boryspil city court in Ukraine sentenced Fikret Huseynli to 18 days of arrest. On 27 October, the Lukyanovsky district court in Kiev released Fikret Huseynli. Fikret Huseynli had lately been collaborating with Turan TV, a satellite television channel broadcast from Europe.

On 26 October, the Pavel Sheremet Journalism Award 2017, which was awarded to jailed journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, was given to his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva.

November

On 7 November, the Azerbaijani government lost a lawsuit against two French journalists. A French court rejected Baku’s lawsuit against the journalists who had called the Azerbaijani government a “dictatorship”. The Azerbaijani government had filed the libel lawsuit against two television workers – Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard. It demanded 1 euro in symbolic damages.

On 8 November, Kapital Bank blocked investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil’s bank account on orders from the Tax Ministry.

The journalist filed a complaint with the Baku Administrative Economic Court No 1. However, the court rejected her suit. The journalist appealed that decision as well. The appeal was rejected as well.

On 16 November, the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award was awarded to investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil in London. Because the journalist was not allowed to travel outside her country, she joined the awards ceremony via Skype.

The journalist was awarded the award for her corruption investigations.

On 16 November, parliamentarian Agil Abbas suggested at a meeting of the National Assembly that people working for foreign media should be declared “spies”. His idea became a talking point.

December

On 15 December, the Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Aziz Orujov, the executive director of Kanal 13 web-based TV, to six years in prison.

On 18 December, access to the website of Kanal 13 web-based TV – kanal13.tv – was blocked.
According to a report released by Reporters Without Borders on 26 April, Azerbaijan ranks 162nd among 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press. The country was 163rd last year.

An annual report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 12 December says that 262 journalists were jailed around the world because of their work. Last year’s record was 259.

Azerbaijan is one of the countries with the largest number of jailed journalists. The CPJ said that 10 journalists were currently in jail in this country. In addition, more than 10 journalists have been banned from traveling outside the country.

However, government officials stress that no journalist in this country is punished because of their professional work.

A draft law “On the Armed Forces of the Azerbaijan Republic” was adopted on 15 December. The law sets restrictions regarding information that journalists can report about the army. Journalists can only report official statements and information provided by press organs.

On 19 December, police detained Avaz Zeynalli, the editor-in-chief of Xural newspaper. His wife said the reason for his detention was that he had filmed the Binagadi road being closed. On 20 December, the Binagadi district court ordered him to pay a fine to the tune of 200 manats and released him.