Media and freedom of expression organisations that are partners of the Council of Europe’s Platform on the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists, including the AEJ, have protested against the criminal investigation against it. Meydan TV, an Azerbaijani online media outlet which is based in Berlin but has contributors working inside Azerbaijan and which is is well known for its journalistic investigations into the involvement of the government in corruption as well as coverage of press freedom and human rights abuses. During Azerbaijan’s crackdown on the media in 2014, Meydan TV closed its Baku newsroom.
Read the Platform Alert here
Meanwhile, the Media Freedom Group of the Civil Society Forum of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, made up of civil society groups of the 6 Eastern Partnership states and the member states of the EU, has issued the following Statement, calling for an end to the prosecution of the Meydan TV journalists, the release of all the journalists being held in jail in Azerbaijan on politically-motivated charges in jail including Khadika Ismailova, who has been awarded the 2016 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
We are appalled by the recent news of the criminal prosecution being conducted against 15 journalists from Meydan TV, an independent Azerbaijan media outlet. This prosecution is a sign of a serious deterioration of the media situation in Azerbaijan, in particular with regards to the respect for the freedom of speech. We also consider that charges against Meydan TV journalists are groundless and politically motivated. It is cynical to investigate journalists, many of whom are volunteers, for tax evasion or illegal enterpreneurship.
It is also cynical to impose a foreign travel ban on them as well as to confiscate their equipment, or to arrest them, as was recently the case of Shyrin Abassov, a journalist cooperating with Meydan TV. We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to stop persecuting journalists and to release those in prison such as Khadija Ismailova, the winner of UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, as well as internet editors Araz Guliyev and Nijat Alijev, print journalists Arshad Abdullayev and Seymur Hazi and bloggers Abdulla Abilov, Omar Mammadov and Makayil Talibov. Freedom of speech must be respected in Azerbaijan.
Signatories: Krzysztof Bobinski, working group 1 coordinator, Co chair, steering committee Civil Society Forum (CSF) and Andrij Kulakov, Internews, Ukraine in the name of the working group 1, mediafreedom sub group.