Freedom of expression situation alarming ahead of Eurovision
Today marks the launch of a new report by the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA), Running Scared: Azerbaijan’s Silenced Voices. The report highlights the climate of fear and pervasive self-censorship in Azerbaijan, with few brave journalists, bloggers and activists remaining. In the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in May, the IPGA calls on the international community to engage the Azerbaijani authorities on these issues now. The NHC is a member of the IGPA network, and you can download the report below.
“In the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest, just when they should be taking steps to improve the freedom of expression situation, the Azerbaijani authorities instead seem determined to silence all government critics. This crackdown on free expression must stop now”, said ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Agnès Callamard.
In the past month alone, authorities have used excessive force to disperse a protest in the city of Guba and two in Baku, arresting protesters – including well-known rapper/singer Jamal Ali – and keeping them in detention on administrative charges. Four journalists remain in detention following their arrest in connection with their coverage of the Guba protest, and journalist Khadija Ismayilova was subjected to a particularly nasty personal attack when an intimate video captured by hidden camera was posted online after she went public following a previous blackmail attempt.
“Azerbaijan is working hard to present itself as a modern, democratic country. But recent attacks against journalists and activists reveal a government unwilling to hear the voices of its people. The government must make a real commitment to free expression --- and the international community must demand that it does so now”, said Index on Censorship Assistant Editor Natasha Schmidt.
Running Scared: Azerbaijan’s Silenced Voices highlights the IPGA’s main areas of concern from September 2010 to present, including the cycle of violence against journalists and impunity for their attackers; increased pressure against journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and activists; and imprisonment and other means of retaliation against those who express opinions critical of the authorities – whether through traditional media, online, or by taking to the streets in protest.
The IPGA calls on the international community to engage the authorities now to put an end to this alarming situation, using every possible opportunity to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its freedom of expression obligations, including the upcoming Eurovision Song Competition, which will be held in Baku in May.