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Censorship by Azerbaijan’s Public TV during press conference with Sweden’s Loreen

Azerbaijani Public TV channel Ictimai TV censored the question given by Reuters News Agency’s journalist to Loreen, Sweden’s representative for Eurovision.

The journalist asked about Loreen’s meeting with opposition groups, while the translator said she was asked about “how she feels after her performance”.

The Azeri version of the video can be found here.

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Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother held for questioning

Imprisoned youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother Solida Movlayeva placed her membership to New Azerbaijan Party on the grave of the late ex-president Heydar Aliyev.

She stated that she left the ruling party as a sign of protest against her son’s imprisonment.

Soon after, law enforcement agents arrived at the scene and detained Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother and a cameraman from IRFS. According to AzadliqRadiosu‘s reporter who was at the scene, the law enforcement agents stated that Solida Movlayeva and the IRFS worker were detained in order to clarify the situation.

In atelephone interview to AzadliqRadiosu, Ms Movlayeva said that she was taken to the Presidential Administration Headquarters for questioning and was told that she was detained because her foot crossed the threshold to Heydar Aliyev’s grave. She added that she joined the New Azerbaijan Party in 1995 of her own free will, as she wanted Heydar Aliyev’s party to have one more member. Seeing the injustices taking place today, she wanted to return the membership to Heydar Aliyev.

After half an hour of questioning, Solida Movlayeva was released. IRFS’s video footage was erased.

Information taken from RFE/RL Azeri Service. Article in Azeri, along with a video, can be found here.

Opposition activist excluded from Baku State University

Javid Mehraliyev, 3rd year History student at Baku State University, has told AzadliqRadiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that he has been excluded from the university.

The official reason behind his exclusion is his continuous absence from classes, but he says that it is because of his participation at opposition rallies: “I was given the order today, but it is dated 5 April. I was in class on the 5th. If I was absent on 5 April, they would have written that in the journal. They wrote that I was absent on the 5th only today. According to University rules, when you miss 100 hours of class an official warning has to be given. I never received such a warning, they just started these scare tactics as soon as I was released from prison. Then the dean comes up to me and tells me that I’ve missed 158 hours of class. I said, but you’re supposed to give me a warning when it reaches 100 hours. He told me to stay out of their business. Even though the order was signed on the 5th, they have noted me as absent on 6, 7, 8 and 11 April as well. How does that work?”

Parvana Ibrahimova, head of the press office at Baku State University, told AzadliqRadiosu that J. Merhaliyev missed 132 hours of class in the 2009-2010 academic year but was allowed to stay on the course. Having missed 158 hours this year, he had to be excluded.

J. Merhaliyev is a member of Classic Popular Front Party, which is a member of the Public Chamber. The police detained him during the 2 April protest and sentenced him to three days in prison.

He says he will go to court for the protection of his rights.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

Journalist Ramin Deko: kidnapped yesterday, beaten today


Journalist from Azadliq newspaper Ramin Deko says that on 3 April at around 10am, three plainclothesmen took him to the Mashtagha area. He told Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that throughout the journey they were advising him to “be smart”. Later, he says, until 4pm he was held in an unknown house and had to listen to people praising the government’s politics. He adds that they mentioned his activeness during the opposition protests and advised him to stop taking part in this:

“They said to me that, we’re giving you advice: work for “Yeni Azerbaijan” newspaper, then good conditions will be created for you. They didn’t use physical force on me, but they pressured me morally. I was seated into a car – a 2107 “Jiguli” – as I was buying a newspaper from a kiosk, and my phone was taken away and switched off immediately.

Ramin Deko says that about six hours later he was released in the Binagadi area, out of a car of a foreign model: “They brought me in a black foreign car. On the way they said that, if you behave yourself, if you leave “Azadliq” newspaper, you’ll have a car like this too.”

He says he has not yet decided whether he will complain to human rights protection organs, but is preparing to address Rights Defense Institute.

Orkhan Mansurzada, Head of the Press Office department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, says that if such an incident occurred, the journalist must contact a local police station or call 102 so that an investigation is made.

Note: on the night of 25-26 March Seymur Haziyev, also from Azadliq newspaper, says he was kidnapped and beaten by 6 masked thugs.

Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov said that he would discuss the issue with the journalist personally in a meeting.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

***UPDATE***

On his way home from work on 4 April at around 21:20 local time, Ramin Deko says he was beaten by two unidentified men near the National Academy of Science. He says he got injuries of various gravity, and was able to save himself by running away. He says that once again he was told to not participate in opposition protests and to “be smart”.

“My shirt was torn, they hit me in the face and kidneys. I saved myself from them by running away. I just returned to Azerbaijan publishing house, to Azadliq newspaper’s editorial office. I’m just sitting down waiting to see what to do, where to go, I don’t know.”

Hackers attack Azadliq newspaper’s website

Azadliq newspaper’s website has been under a hacker attack.

Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL) got this information from the site’s web-editor, Ali Rza. He says that the server has been artificially overloaded.

An official from the newspaper says that work is under way to fix the problem. The hacked site redirects to porn sites.

Social networks banned in internet cafes in Shirvan

In Shirvan, some sites have been blocked in internet clubs. According to information given to RFE/RL Azeri service by Idrak Jamalbeyli, journalist at Ölkə (“Country”) newspaper, the internet cafes he has been to have restrictions in place against social networking sites that young people are increasingly active in: “I’ve been in Shirvan for a few days now because of work. I go to internet cafes during the day. The executive authorities have them constantly under surveillance. The owners of these internet cafes are given instructions to block sites like Facebook and Twitter. Here, I can only access sites via proxy.”

Shirvan City Executive Authority representative Shafayat Asgarov denies this: “In February, we had a review of internet cafes. During the raids, it became evident that underage children go on lewd websites. After this, there was a ban on young children going on these sites. Announcements were put up about this.”

Shafayat Asgarov stressed that the executive authorities do not have the authority to block or ban social networks.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

Will the shutting down of BBC Azeri Service lead to progress for new & social media?

In 1994 the BBC Azeri Service was the 40th to be added to the vast list of languages the BBC World Service broadcasts in. On 25 March it broadcast its last radio program, after the BBC budget cuts forced several services to be shut down.

Despite assertions that this move to shut down the BBC Azeri radio service is just playing into the hands of the Aliyev regime, head of BBC Central Asia and Caucasus Service Hamid Ismailov counters this argument, saying that the Azeri service will continue its activities online, and the cuts only mean that there will no longer be radio broadcasts. He adds that this will allow the service to concentrate on its online operations, where a much broader range of activity is possible: the fact that the Azerbaijani population mainly consists of youths means that broadcasts via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social networking tools are attracting large audiences – the BBC can and should make use of these.

In an interview to the BBC Azeri service during its last radio broadcast, Regional Editor for Caucasus at Global Voices Online Onnik Krikorian says he prefers to see new and social media as simply a tool: saying that it creates revolutions would be incorrect, as that depends on those who utilize this media. He notes that users of Twitter and Facebook in Azerbaijan are very active, whereas in Armenia this is not the case – yet looking at the number of people taking part in protests, the opposite is true. “I think it is very interesting to look at the way use of new media is progressing in these regions. The government is very aware of this progress, so the main objective now is not to let them to take over new media in the future.”

Blogger and youth activist Emin Milli had this to say: “Looking at the BBC Azeri service in the field of media, it is more of a charity organization rather than a business. With regard to politics, you cannot put all countries on the same level. In democratic countries like Great Britain, such decisions can still be influenced. So I think that, even if this resolution takes effect from 1 April, it can be changed at some point.”

Final radio broadcast of BBC Azeri

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev banned from reading Rasulzada’s book in prison

Baktiyar Hajiyev’s mother Solida Movlayeva says that during the Novruz holidays she wanted to meet with her son, even just for a few minutes, but was not allowed to do so.

“They are playing ‘pass the parcel’. The lawyer said that he has completed the case and sent the papers to the court. The court says that the case has not been presented to them yet. They’re not allowing for a meeting with his parents. Meanwhile other detainees here are allowed to meet with family members as well as parents.”

Solida Movlayeva says that in order for Bakhtiyar to spend his time in prison productively, she sent books for him to read. But the book on Mammad Amin Rasulzada was not accepted by the prison workers. This surprized Solida Movlayeva all the more.

“We brought with us a M. A. Rasulzada book in Russian. They didn’t accept it. But they did accept Dostoevsky’s “Humiliated and Insulted”. They probably didn’t even understand. I still can’t comprehend why they wouldn’t accept Rasulzada’s book. It’s shocking. I don’t know what they’re going to achieve by banning Rasulzada’s book.”

The detention center Bakhtiyar is being held at tells RFE/RL Azeri service that he only has permission to meet with his lawyer. If his family members present a letter of permission, they can meet with him too.

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s lawyer Alayif Hasanov says that, before the case is officially assigned to a judge, the parents cannot submit an application to meet with Bakhtiyar. He adds that the court’s demand for visit permission papers from Bakhtiyar’s parents is yet another needless, pretentious requirement.

“In reality he is not being charged with anything that is of danger to society; the law does not pose any serious barriers for him to meet with his family. At this stage it is also unclear who is supposed to give permission for him to have this visit. The case has been forwarded from the prosecutor’s office to the court but a specific judge has not been assigned, therefore we don’t know who to raise this petition with.”

Alayif Hasanov last met with Bakhtiyar Hajiyev on 20 March. He says that Bakhtiyar is fine and the conditions are normal. On 4 April Bakhtiyar’s 1-month pretrial detention comes to an end. Alayif Hasanov says that, considering the way that the way the interrogation went, and other ways in which the prosecutors tried to impede the procedures, indicate that Bakhtiyar Hajiyev will not be freed any time soon.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

Letter from Fekhreddin Hajibeyli, Azeri journalist beaten in Germany

On 18 March Fekhreddin Hajibeyli, a journalist and political refugee from Azerbaijan living in Germany, was beaten in Berlin after a night of Novruz celebrations. He had to be taken to hospital; two of his ribs are broken. A letter he wrote to explain what took place was published on Facebook today. It reads as follows:

For the act of terror committed against me on 18 March at around 11 o’clock, I blame the Azerbaijani Embassy in Germany – specifically Fikrat Akhundov, First Secretary at the Embassy. Head of Azerbaijan House Tofig Garayev, Rovshan Grossman and others were simply used on this occasion.

At the time of the incident, [he] made a remark about an article of mine called “The Diaspora Chieftains” that was published in “Azadliq” newspaper a year ago, and [asked me] why I wrote it. I said that I wrote that article one year ago and that it was based on facts and my observations. It appears that the opposing side did not wish to clarify or get to the bottom of anything but rather to find an opportunity, an excuse to physically pressure me. I repeated that I wrote the article based on my observations, but T. Garayev insulted me and threw a punch at me. More than ten people came up behind him and started towards me. I don’t recollect what happened next as the blows I received to my face after I fell to the ground left me unconscious. I was left lying on the floor; I heard someone shout “He’s dead, he’s dead,” – only after this did they leave me alone. They wanted to kill me: while they were beating me they were saying, “Beat him to death!” and only left when I was lying on the ground totally unconscious – they took me for dead. The fact that one of them said “He’s dead” and that they left me after this proves this.

By doing this those who planned it, to be specific the Azerbaijani government, show that even in Europe … (cut off)

[…]

To subject a journalist to violence in the European capital for an article he wrote simply demonstrates the way journalists are treated in Azerbaijan, where police and the court system are an instrument in the government’s politics and where supreme values are nonexistent. It is not hard to imagine this.

Those who think that such incidents will scare us and force us to stop pursuing this road are mistaken; such attempts at terror just show the real face of those who are behind these acts.

F. Hajibeyli

Thanks to F. Makhmud for the photos.

Rock concert not permitted in Baku [Interview with Azer Mammadov]

Azər Məmmədov

Rock musician Azer Mammadov’s concert, which was supposed to take place on 18 March at Baku Rock Club, has been postponed. He was informed of this by the management at the club exactly two hours before the concert was due to start.

Azer, has the concert been posponed or canceled?

For the time being, it has been postponed. If possible, we will still hold it.

What is the reason for the postponement of the concert?

Two hours before the concert a barman approached us, saying they had a call from the Presidential Administration saying that it is prohibited to hold a concert here.

Did they explain why?

We asked why they came to this decision. They apologized that it turned out like this. They said that unfortunately, it is not allowed to hold a concert here.

Were tickets sold for the concert?

No, tickets were not on pre-sale. Due to lack of time, they were going to be sold at the entrance.

Approximately how many people were expected?

The venue is not that big, but we expected about 400 youths to be there.

Have you notified people about the fact that the concert has been canceled?

Yes, concert administrators have spread the news of it being temporarily canceled via Facebook.

Please tell us about your music. What are your songs about?

I perform rock music. My songs are quite popular in Azerbaijan and abroad. My songs are mostly about love, freedom, freedom of thought. The songs about society are popular. “Lazim hani”, “Azad edin”, “Divar” are well-known.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

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