Severe attack on Azadlig journalist

Three unidentified men abducted a reporter Fikret Huseynli from the Azerbaijani opposition newspaper Azadlig on Sunday night, beating him, breaking some of his fingers, and slashing him. The attack on the journalist was likely related to his work, as he recently received several anonymous telephone threats after writing articles on bribe-taking among senior government officials and criminal activities involving wealthy business people. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the authorities to undertake a through and impartial investigation. (07-MAR-2006)
 

Three unidentified men abducted a reporter Fikret Huseynli from the Azerbaijani opposition newspaper Azadlig on Sunday night, beating him, breaking some of his fingers, and slashing him. The attack on the journalist was likely related to his work, as he recently received several anonymous telephone threats after writing articles on bribe-taking among senior government officials and criminal activities involving wealthy business people. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the authorities to undertake a through and impartial investigation. (07-MAR-2006)

Written by HRH Baku/Shahla Ismailova, photo by Azadlig newspaper

On the 5th of March at night the correspondent Fikret Huseynli was struck on the back of his head several times, knocking him out. When he regained consciousness, he was in a Lada 2107 car with three strangers. They brought him to a location near the old bus terminal and forcibly removed him from the car. The kidnappers then tied his hands and started fracturing his fingers. Finally, one the assailants stabbed him in the neck; Huseynli shouted and fell down. One of the assailants said, “He´s dead,” at which point they fled the crime scene. After approximately 30 minutes Huseynli regained consciousness and crawled to a main road, where he was able to ask pedestrians to take him to a hospital. The journalist has had surgery, but his health condition remains serious due to a loss of blood.

Supposed reasons
Huseynli has written articles about corruption, bribery among high-ranking officials, and the criminal activities of oligarchs. The “Azadlig” daily claims that state officials ordered the journalist´s murder, as a result of these activities. He recently received several anonymous telephone threats after these articles.

“We´re alarmed by reports that suggest authorities may have prejudged this crime and are unwilling to fully investigate the potential motives behind it,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on authorities to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation.”

Political parties condemn the attack
On the 6-th of March Musavat Party released a statement condemning the violence against journalist Fikret Huseynli. The party expressed serious concern about the event, and assessed it as yet another step toward the suffocation of freedom of speech. The statement reads that the attack was politically motivated, because the journalist wrote articles about crimes among state officials, which strengthens assumptions. “Elmar Huseynov´s murder has not been solved yet, and now there is another crime”, the statement reads.

Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP) called an attack on “Azadlig” newspaper correspondent Fikret Huseynli the newest step by authorities to punish opposition mass media. The party demanded that such practices and the persecution of opposition journalists must be stopped.

Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) assessed the event as an attempt to suffocate freedom of speech. According to them, the authorities, who must ensure freedom of speech in accordance with Azerbaijan´s commitments to the UN, OSCE, and Council of Europe, bear responsibility for these events.
   
The Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PPFA) also condemns the act of terrorism against Fikret Huseynli, a correspondent of “Azadlig” newspaper. The party released a statement which says that Ilham Aliyev personally bears responsibility for the attack. It was noted in the statement that the attack on Huseynli was not casual, it was ordered by state officials whom Huseynli criticized in articles he wrote.

All the political parties demanded that those who attacked Huseynli and organized the crime must be found and punished.

Council of Editors is alarmed by the attack
On the 7-th of March, the attack on the newspaper correspondent was discussed on the meeting of the Council of Editors. The editor-in-chief of “Azadlig” newspaper Ganimat Zahid said that the atmosphere of impunity creates conditions for the continuation of violence against journalists.

“Ganun” Magazine head Shahbaz Khuduoglu reproached society for its indifference about violence against journalists. It is necessary to understand the seriousness of this situation and to consolidate the efforts of journalists. “Any of us could become the next victim,” Khuduoglu said.

TURAN News Agency director Mehman Aliyev believes that the situation involving Huseynli must be interpreted as policy executed by authorities to suppress the independent press. This policy also includes economic suffocation of the press, as a result of which the number of independent press sources will be minimized. At the same time, the authorities will create newspapers, news agencies, TV channels, and disseminate opinions which serve their needs. Incidents of violence arouse fear and strengthen self-censorship. Aliyev advocated solidarity among the independent media.

The editor-in-chief of “Yeni Musavat” Rauf Arifoglu proposed making the Council of Editors more active and the discussion of mass media relations amongst each other.

Then editors adopted a statement in which the attack on Huseynli was assessed as a premeditated attack and the most recent infringement of freedom of speech in Azerbaijan. The Council of Editors called on law enforcement bodies to investigate this crime and punish the guilty. It was decided that on March 9 or 19 a Forum of Journalists will be held, and a review of articles written by Huseynli, in which he condemned senior officials for corruption and abuse, will be prepared by “Azadlig” and published in newspapers.

Press Council calls the general prosecutor to investigate the case
According to the information received from the head of the Press Council Aflatun Amashev, Azerbaijan´s Press Council appealed to General Prosecutor Zakir Garalov to investigate the kidnapping and severe beating of “Azadlig” newspaper employee Fikret Huseynov. The Council called for the detainment of all people involved in the attack on journalist.

The Committee for Protection the Rights of Journalists, “RUH,” called on Minister of Interior Ramil Usubov to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls to investigation
“We´re alarmed by reports that suggest authorities may have prejudged this crime and are unwilling to fully investigate the potential motives behind it,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on authorities to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation.”

reporters sins frontiers LOGOReporters Without Borders is outraged at brutality
Reporters Without Borders expressed “outrage” at the savage attack on opposition journalist Fikret Huseynli, who is a correspondent for the “Azadlig” daily newspaper.

The organization noted the similar attacks on two other “Azadlig” journalists. This most recent near-fatal assault occurred at a time when many in Azerbaijan were paying tribute to Elmar Husseynov, a journalist who was murdered on March 2, 2005.

“We are outraged at the brutality of the methods used in a bid to intimidate opposition journalists,” reads a Reporters Without Borders statement. “This is not the first time that such violence has been used against a journalist in Azerbaijan and this case demonstrates the constant and worrying deterioration in press freedom in the country, one year after the as-yet-unpunished murder of Elmar Husseynov.”

“We urge President Ilham Aliyev to make sure an investigation is opened to identify and punish those responsible for this assault,” the statement concluded. The “Azadlig” daily´s commercial director told Reporters Without Borders that he is convinced that the attack on his colleague was linked to Huseynli´s investigative work, and the newspaper suspects that some members of the Azerbaijan government instigated the attempted murder.

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