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OSCE urges Azerbaijan to end crackdown on journalists

OSCE urges Azerbaijan to end crackdown on journalists

PanARMENIAN.Net - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir on Monday, December 18 expressed grave concerns regarding the sentencing of Aziz Orudjev, head of the internet TV channel Kanal 13, in Azerbaijan.

On 15 December, the Baku Court on Grave Crimes sentenced Orudjev to six years in prison on charges of illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power.

“I call on the authorities to review Aziz Orudjev’s verdict and to end restrictive measures detrimental to his freedom and safety,” Désir said. “I am hopeful that this decision will be overturned during the appeals process.”

In his letter to the authorities of 30 November, the Representative noted repeated reports that the prosecution has not submitted any evidence of Orudjev’s guilt to the court, as well as allegations that the journalist was subject to persecution because of his work on Kanal 13, known for its independent reporting.

Désir also raised concern regarding the ongoing trial of journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, who was reportedly abducted in Tbilisi, Georgia at the end of May 2017.

“Notwithstanding the seriousness of reports that Mukhtarli was subject to attack and abduction, the spurious charges brought against him in Azerbaijan and the lack of evidence for keeping him in lengthy custody is troubling,” Désir said. “I urge the authorities to drop all charges against the journalist and respect his right to freedom of expression.”

The Representative additionally noted reports that the bank accounts of well-known investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova have been recently suspended. He reminded the authorities that this restrictive action, together with her unjust imprisonment and continued travel ban, is yet another step which seriously hinders the professional activity of the journalist.

Furthermore, Désir expressed his disappointment with the Baku Appeals Court’s decision to uphold the two-year prison sentence handed down to Mehman Huseynov, blogger and chair of the media NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, on 15 December.

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