Politics 19:45 19/12/2014

Director ‘‘Amazing Azerbaijan’’ documentary: It is dangerous to be journalist in Azerbaijan

British documentary filmmaker, author of the film “Amazing Azerbaijan” Liz Mermin, in an interview given to British “Huckmagazine” magazine touched the topic of the arrest of the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova and the situation of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

As Mermin notes, in an interview during the filming Ismayilova was determined in continuing the work, knowing the risks, as she believed that someone had to tell the truth about the business transactions of the government. Mermin also noted that there are very few journalist-investigators in Azerbaijan. The reason is that on one hand it is dangerous, and on the other there is very few independent media in Azerbaijan. The journalists and bloggers are threatened, beaten, arrested, fired from their jobs, and even killed. Family members of journalists are also at risk.

"How do the people know what is true and what is not in such atmosphere? Without well-trained journalists and independent media, the truth will be whatever the government wants. This will not be just a way to reinforce the dictatorship; it is a curse for a whole generation which is growing without the notion of truth, power, citizenship," said Mermin.

In a very convincing report written by the European Stability Initiative, Azerbaijan was accused of bribing the officials (including members of the Council of Europe) using the black caviar, luxurious travel and gifts. British journalist also notes that this year Azerbaijan was the chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, despite the fact that the PACE rapporteur on political prisoners was not allowed to enter the country.

Mermin also told that during the filming she was not impressed by Baku, where the poverty and the struggle for survival were hidden behind high walls and facades. She noted that the case of Khadija Ismayilova is not the only one, it is just one of a number of people that are shot in the film, who have been harassed. "Anyone who raises his head above the parapet, whether he is a journalist, activist or simply an NGO, is endangered," Mermin says, noting that she is concerned about Ismayilova’s life.

In its turn, the international network of social activists and organizations “Association for Progressive Communications” (APC) has published a statement on its website in which it calls to take off the charges against Khadija Ismayilova and punish the officials in the government of Azerbaijan, who are involved in the arrest and torture of the journalists and fighters for freedom of expression.

Organization “Platform London” on its website initiated an action in support of Azerbaijani political prisoners, and in particular Ismayilova, calling on the attendees to send messages of solidarity to the journalist.

Professor of Caucasus School of Journalism in Tbilisi Nino Danelia in her conversation with the site of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) noted that the authoritarian government of Azerbaijan believes that journalists should not criticize the political and economic elite, to expose their corruption or confront them in any way. They also believe that the information on what is happening in Azerbaijan should not go outside the country.

She is also citing the words of his friends that are in Azerbaijan, who say that the situation there has worsen after the decision to hold the European Games in 2015. According to her, this is due to the fact that the authorities do not want to have the same case they had with Eurovision, when journalists began writing articles about human rights violations in Azerbaijan. According to her the only way to have a pressure over Azerbaijan is to stop working with him, because the authorities of this country believe that the world is more interested in their oil reserves and political stability than in the fate of several persons.

On December 5, morning, well-known Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was detained after being questioned at the prosecutor's office. Baku Sabail District Court made a decision to detain her for two months. She was charged with incitement to suicide. If the fault of the journalist is proven, then she can be punished by a term of 3 to 7 years in prison. Khadija Ismayilova has become the target of attacks of the government for her journalistic activities. Ismayilova is an author of a number of journalistic investigations of corruption in the highest echelons of power in Azerbaijan. In recent years, she is conducting a talk show in the Azerbaijani Service of “Radio Liberty”.

The arrest of Ismayilova has been followed by a wave of condemning statements by a number of international organizations and influential representatives from various states. Protest actions have been organized in her support in various countries; and prominent international editions released articles covering the topic.

Source Panorama.am
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