Azerbaijan Must Cease Retaliations Against Eurovision Human Rights Activists
Freedom House is deeply concerned by the detention of Azerbaijani photojournalist and Facebook activist Mehman Huseynov on June 12, in a move that appears to be a reprisal for his human rights advocacy during the Eurovision contest hosted in the capital city of Baku in May. Huseynov is being charged with hooliganism after allegedly resisting police during a demonstration May 21 and using abusive language against security officials, and could face up to a year in prison if convicted, according to RFE/RL. Freedom House calls for the international community to exert pressure on Baku to release Huseynov and uphold its human rights commitments.
“The shift in international attention away from Azerbaijan cannot be license to crack down on dissent,” said Susan Corke, director for Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The government of Azerbaijan must live up to international commitments and domestic laws to respect the right to free speech. In order to hold international events in the future, the government should demonstrate that it takes those commitments seriously.”
The detention of Huseynov comes amid a host of troubling signs in Azerbaijan after the end of Eurovision, including the sentencing of another journalist, Anar Bayramli, to two years in prison on what appear to be spurious drug charges, and two new laws protecting the president’s family and finances from scrutiny.
Huseynov is a correspondent for the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and the brother of its chairman, Emin Huseynov. The group played a prominent role in raising human rights concerns before and during the song contest. After the conclusion of the contest, a presidential spokesman called for “public hatred” against independent media in a speech in which he decried international NGOs and the European Union’s Neighborhood Policy.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2012 surveys.
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Freedom in the World 2011: Azerbaijan
Freedom of the Press 2011: Azerbaijan
Freedom on the Net 2011: Azerbaijjan