Friday Wrap-up: AbsazMedia crackdown

Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinj Vagifgizi and Muhammad Kekalov. Photo: Meydan TV

This week saw renewed repression of independent media and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

Journalists summoned as witnesses in AbzasMedia case

Journalists Mina Alyarli and Elnara Gasimova were called in for questioning at the Baku City Police Department (BPSPI) in connection to the ongoing criminal case involving AbzasMedia’s director Ulvi Hasanli and editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifqizi. Both Alyarli and Gasimova were summoned as witnesses.

In a similar way, journalists Sahila Aslanova and Nargiz Absalamova were also summoned to the BPSPI regarding the same case, underlining a pattern of individuals being called.

Adding to the roster of those questioned, Rubaba Guliyeva, Ulvi Hasanli’s spouse, was asked to appear before the BPSPI on November 24.

A pretrial detention measure was selected for Muhammed Kekalov

The deputy director of AbzasMedia, Mahammad Kekalov, faced a development in his legal proceedings as a pretrial detention measure of three months and 27 days was determined by the Khatai District Court.

Kekalov had been detained on November 20, and an arrest warrant was issued for him prior to the court’s decision. This ruling followed the prosecutor’s argument, validating the decision to keep Kekalov in custody for the investigation period.

Kekalov’s situation mirrors that of the media outlet’s director, Ulvi Hasanli, and editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifqizi, as all three individuals are charged under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code.

Azerbaijani civil society raises alarms over media repression and rights violations

A collective statement issued by Azerbaijani civil society representatives highlighted alarming incidents surrounding media freedom and human rights violations within the country. The document focused on the arrest and mistreatment of AbzasMedia’s key figures, including director Ulvi Hasanli, editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi, and deputy director Mahammad Kekalov. Specific details revealed Hasanli’s detainment, alleged ill-treatment during the arrest, and subsequent arrests of others linked to the media institution.

The statement underscored procedural concerns during investigations and court proceedings, pointing out the lack of substantial evidence and reported human rights abuses. It detailed instances where police interference obstructed journalists from covering events, highlighting a broader trend of government-associated media labeling critical civil society organizations without credible evidence. The circulated defamatory materials targeted activists and contributed to a climate of persecution against independent media.

Condemning these actions as politically motivated persecution, the authors urged international intervention from organizations like the UN, the Council of Europe, and OSCE. They demanded the immediate release of the detained individuals, emphasizing the urgent need for international attention to address the worsening human rights situation within Azerbaijan.

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