Elmar Huseynov, the editor-in-chief of Russian language magazine Monitor, was gunned down in 2005 in the stairwell of his apartment building in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
According to local media, no one has yet been arrested in connection with the killing. On the seventh anniversary of Elmar Huseynov’s murder, the Norwegian
Helsinki Committee joins the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) in the groups concern regarding the continuing cycle of violence against journalists and impunity for their attackers in Azerbaijan.
The IPGA calls for the authorities to bring Elmar Huseynov’s murderers to justice and to seriously investigate and prosecute all cases of violence against journalists.
Since Elmar Huseynov’s murder, there have been dozens of violent attacks against journalists in Azerbaijan, including the murder of prominent journalist and writer Rafiq Tagi in November 2011.
None of these attacks have been seriously investigated or prosecuted, resulting in a climate of impunity for those who wish to use violence to silence critical voices.
WORK OF ELMAR HUSEYNOV
Elmar Huseynov begun his journalistic career in the early 1990s when he joined the independent Russian-language newspaper- Zerkalo.
In 1995, he set up the weekly Monitor magazine. Monitor has been consistently critical of the Azerbaijani government, former President Heydar Aliyev, and the current President Ilham Aliyev.
Huseynov’s articles have highlighted human rights, torture in Azerbaijani prisons, and the plight of the army. The government was quick to put pressure on independent Monitor magazine, The Justice Ministry once forced Huseynov to publish a disclaimer, apologising for allegedly misleading statements in one of his articles.
Threatened with closure, Huseynov published the disclaimer, but then in an editorial note he refuted it in its entirety and protested against the violation of his constitutional rights.
The government has also tried to close down the printing companies where Monitor is produced, but following protests from the public and the diplomatic community, the authorities acknowledged that the closure was illegal.
Over the years, government officials have confiscated copies of Monitor from state and private newsstands across Baku and charged Huseynov with defaming the Azerbaijani population, insulting the honour and dignity of government officials, and spreading libellous information.
Due to government pressure all Baku-based printing companies are currently refusing to produce the magazine.
CENSORSHIP OF PRESS
The persistent targeting of selected individuals in the years following Huseynov’s murder has perpetuated and strengthened the cycle of impunity in Azerbaijan.
In 2009, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety reported over 50 instances of “attacks, provocation, violations and threats against journalists and media organizations” in Azerbaijan, many of them instances of violence.
Authorities remain indifferent to the plight of journalists and police fail to protect them; when journalists report violence or threats of violence against them, they are often ignored, and, in some cases, subjected to acts of retaliation for lodging complaints with the authorities.
In July 2009, bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade reported an attack against them to the police, and were themselves arrested for hooliganism.
They were sentenced to two years and two and a half years in prison respectively.
In July 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted concern regarding reports of killings and attacks against journalists, and called on the authorities to protect media workers from such acts of violence and to “pay special attention and react vigorously if such acts occur.”
Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg also expressed grave concern regarding reports of violence and threats of violence against journalists and called on the authorities to conduct “effective and independent” investigations into reports of such violence or threats.
The IPGA condemns the use of violence to restrict freedom of expression and calls for the authorities to end this vicious cycle by immediately and impartially investigating all attacks against journalists and bringing those responsible to justice.
The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan is a coalition of 20 international NGOs working to promote and protect freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. Joining this statement are: Article 19, Index on Censorship, Freedom House, Committee to protect journalists, IPI, Media Diversity Institute, World Association for Newspapers and News Publishers, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights House Foundation and Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
For more information on the cycle of violence against journalists and impunity for their attackers in Azerbaijan, see the joint report Free Expression Under Attack: Azerbaijan’s Deteriorating Media Environment (pdf).