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Call for 'public hatred' against journalists in Azerbaijan condemned

13 June 2012

A spokesperson for the government of Azerbaijan has called for a show of 'public hatred' against the independent media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), condemned the call.

The call was made by Ali Hasanov, spokesperson for the Presidential Administration on 31 May, in a speech attacking the role of international NGOs for their interference in Azerbaijan affairs.

Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, said:

"This call by one of the government's most senior spokespersons, is designed to increase the climate of fear and tension in which violence and impunity flourish. It is an attack on journalism and the public's right to oppose, to scrutinize and to hold government to account."

Ali Hasanov made his statement in the week after Baku hosted the Eurovision Song Contest during which the country's human rights record came under close international scrutiny. The IFJ and EFJ had also used the contest to alert the world's media to the conditions of Azeri journalists and "shine a light on the mistreatment of journalists".

In its statement, the IFJ noted over 30 violent attacks against journalists in the first four months of the year, the unsolved murder of Rafig Tagi and the nauseating blackmailing of Kadija Ismayilova.

In his speech, Ali Hasanov said: 

"This type of opposition members, journalists and newspapers should not dare to go out! I'm not saying that you should attack them, but you have to show public hatred."

Arne König, EFJ President, said:

"Hasanov's statement is an open invitation to abuse and assault any journalist that does not follow the government's line. He appears to have taken the authorities' already dismal record of protecting journalists and turned this climate of impunity into semi official policy. All journalists, regardless of their media's affiliation, should feel threatened by this statement and roundly condemn it."

The IFJ's affiliate in the country, the Journalists Union of Azerbaijan, also expressed its concern and demanded an explanation, pointing out that such remarks by a public official could lead to increased attacks on journalists.

Tags: , press freedom, azerbaijan, violence, independent media