Press Release — HRF to Azerbaijan: Drop Criminal Investigation Into Independent Media
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the criminal investigation launched against Meydan TV, an independent digital news outlet known for its critical reporting on the government of Azerbaijan. In April, following the Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone, Meydan published a detailed report on the actual number of military casualties, which had been significantly undercounted by the government. HRF calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to drop their prosecution, end the ongoing harassment against Meydan's journalists, and lift the travel bans imposed on them.
“Under Aliyev’s authoritarian regime, independent news reporting is a crime,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Despite living in one of the most hostile environments for journalists, the professionals at Meydan are risking their lives to speak truth to power and enable Azerbaijanis to receive accurate and independent information,” added Halvorssen.
On April 21, the General Prosecutor Office of Grave Crimes Investigation Department opened the investigation against Meydan TV’s executives for alleged “illegal practice” and “abuse of power.” Although not formally charged yet, a number of Meydan’s journalists are facing arbitrary travel bans, warrantless home searches, and equipment confiscation.
For years now, Meydan TV has faced extensive government pressure. In 2014, after its founder, Emin Milli, was threatened and continuously harassed, Meydan TV closed its newsroom in Baku. It now operates out of Berlin, Germany with a few contributors still reporting from Baku. Emin Milli will speak at the upcoming 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum, a global conference organized annually by HRF.
“It is not surprising that the Azerbaijani regime is once again abusing its judicial system to silence news that inconvenience the government,” said Halvorssen. “The regime should drop the investigation against these journalists and allow them to operate freely,” concluded Halvorssen.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.