Freedom House: Safety of Journalists in Freefall in Azerbaijan
Freedom House has stated that it is “gravely concerned” about the increasing number of attacks and intimidation on journalists in several OSCE members, including in Azerbaijan.
“Over the last year, physical violence, punitive legal measures, smear campaigns and other forms of harassment have been used in an attempt to silence critical voices in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea, and Ukraine, as well as the voices of minority groups, especially those of Crimean Tatars and Kurds," the Washington-based rights group said in a statement in the OSCE event held in Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 18.
The organization notes that journalists in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Crimea are less secure as ever and that “silencing these voices has a lasting impact on the state of democracy, security, and human rights in OSCE participating states."
An example of blackmail campaign is the distribution of a sex tape of journalist Khadija Ismayilova in 2012 after she revealed large financial holdings of President Ilham Aliyev's family members.
Sevinj Osmangizi, an independent journalist working in the United States of America, was also blackmailed with intimate photos and demanded that she halt her journalistic activities. Osmangizi ran a series of programs in April of this year that was focused on corruption in the oil and gas sector in Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani authorities say no journalists are prosecuted for their professional activities in the country. Instead, they say journalists or media representatives are prosecuted other crimes that do not have a connection to their work. In reality, however, these charges are often trumped up and bogus.
Freedom House also urges the OSCE to hold the responsible governments accountable for failing to protect journalists.
“A safe environment where journalists can do their jobs to bring the public their right to truth and objective information is a critical pillar of the democratic ideals that underpin the OSCE mechanism,” the rights group said.
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