Monday, July 13, 2009

Azeri bloggers & youth activists jailed

On Friday, July 10, the two Azeri bloggers and youth activists, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, were put in two months' pre-trial jail custody awaiting trial for charges of so called hooliganism.

The two bloggers were unprovokedly assaulted and beaten, according to unanimous witness accounts, by two men during a restaurant visit in Baku Thursday night. They were then arrested by police and themselves charged of crime, while initially being denied legal representation, in breach of the European HR Convention. As German government Human Rights' Ombudsman, Günter Nooke, commented the case visiting Baku: "Here vistims are made into perpetrators. It is a typical sign of dictatorship in action."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have drawn attention to the case, and demanded the release of Hajizade and Milli. RSF ranks Azerbaijan no. 153 out of 170 on its Press Freedom Index.

I recently visited Azerbaijan, and then met with bloggers and activists from OL! - the organization Hajizade and Milli belong to - and got an opportunity to discuss the situation surrounding freedom of speech and media freedom in the country. My impression was that bloggers and youth activists are increasingly subjected to various repressive measures, as e.g. mass arrests a memorial manifestation for the 13 students murdered at the Baku State Oil Academy this spring. Impressions from evolving events in nearby Iran were apparent and similarities between Iranian and Azeri activists' use of IT-based social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) were striking. This may possibly also explain Azeri authorities' actions against the two bloggers.

As mentioned, the two bloggers were active within OL! OL! Azərbaycan Gənclər Hərəkatı - OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement - is an opposition youth organization, advocating modernity, non-violence, and tolerance. Support for extended freedom of speech is a recurrent theme in the organization's activities. OL! gathers mainly students and intellectuals, with extensive use of new media and so called flash mobs - public and peaceful gatherings with unexpected and intriguing contents (a new type of demonstration).

Further information about the two jailed bloggers, Hajizade and Milli, may be found at OL! Bloqu, and an assortment of news articles are also available beneath.

11 July 2009:
- Reporters Without Borders, "Two bloggers held on hooliganism charges"
- Le Monde, "Reporters sans frontiéres dénonce la détention de 2 blogueurs"
- RFE/RL, "Azerbaijani Activists Denied Release Before Trial"
- Le Figaro, "Azerbaïdjan: 2 blogueurs arrêtés"
- Der Standard, "Hier werden Opfer zu Tätern gemacht"
- ADN.es, "RSF denuncia detenciones de blogueros e internautas en China y Azerbaiyán"

12 July 2009:
- Reuters, "Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case"
- The Times, "Repression in Azerbaijan"
- The New York Times, "Azeri Blogger Detained, Oil Major Presses Case"
13 July 2009:
- Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, "Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Deplores Harassment of Internet Journalists"

Azeriska bloggare och ungdomsaktivister fängslas

I fredags den 10 juli sattes de båda azeriska bloggarna och ungdomsaktivisterna, Adnan Hajizade och Emin Milli, i två månaders förhörshäkte i avvaktan på rättegång om anklagelser för så kallad huliganism.

De båda bloggarna angreps och misshandlades, enligt samstämmiga vittnesuppgifter, oprovocerat av två män vid ett restaurangbesök i Baku på torsdagskvällen. De greps därefter av polis och ställdes själva inför brottsanklagelser samt förvägrades inledningsvis, i brott mot Europakonventionen, kontakt med advokat. Som tyska regeringens MR-ombudsman, Günter Nooke, kommenterade fallet på plats i Baku: "Här blir offer till gärningsmän. Det är ett typiskt tecken på en diktatur under utövning".

Reportrar utan Gränser (RSF) har uppmärksammat fallet och krävt att Hajizade och Milli släpps. RSF rankar Azerbajdzjan till plats 150 av 173 i sitt pressfrihetsindex.

Jag besökte nyligen Azerbajdzjan och träffade då bloggare och aktivister från OL! - den organisation Hajizade och Milli tillhör - varvid jag fick tillfälle att närmare diskutera situationen kring yttrande- och mediefrihet i landet. Mitt intryck var att bloggare och ungdomsaktivister blev alltmer utsatta för skilda repressiva åtgärder, som exempelvis omfattande arresteringar i samband med en manifestation till minne av mordet på 13 studenter vid den statliga oljeakademin tidigare i våras. Intrycken av händelseutvecklingen i närliggande Iran var påtagliga och likheterna mellan de iranska och azeriska aktivisternas användning av IT-baserade sociala medier (bloggar, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) var slående. Möjligen kan detta även förklara azeriska myndigheters agerande mot de båda nu fängslade bloggarna.

Som nämnts var de båda bloggarna aktiva inom OL! OL! Azərbaycan Gənclər Hərəkatı - OL! Azerbajdzjans sociala ungdomsrörelse - är en oppositionell ungdomsorganisation, som förespråkar modernitet, icke-våld och tolerans. Stöd för ökad yttrandefrihet i Azerbajdzjan är ett återkommande tema i organisationens verksamhet. OL! samlar framförallt studenter och intellektuella samt utnyttjar i stor utsträckning nya medier samt "flash mobs" - offentliga och fredliga sammankomster med oväntat och intresseväckande innehåll (den nya tidens demonstration).

Närmare information om de båda fängslade bloggarna, Hajizade och Milli, återfinns på OL! Bloqu och ett urval internationella pressreaktioner nedan.

11 juli 2009:
- Reporters without borders, "Two bloggers held on hooliganism charges"
- Le Monde, "Reporters sans frontières dénonce la détention de 2 blogueurs"
- RFE/RL, "Azerbaijani Activists Denied Release Before Trial"
- Le Figaro, "Azerbaïdjan: 2 blogueurs arrêtés"
- Der Standard, "Hier werden Opfer zu Tätern gemacht"
- ADN.es, "RSF denuncia detenciones de blogueros e internautas en China y Azerbaiyán"

12 juli 2009:
- Reuters, "Bloggers detained, oil major presses case"
- The Times, "Repression in Azerbaijan"
- New York Times, "Azeri Blogger Detained, Oil Major Presses Case"
13 juli 2009:
- Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, "Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Deplores Harassment of Internet Journalists"

3 comments:

Farid_XL said...

Dear Vilhelm.
I am deeply grateful to you for posting that news in you blog.
But there is one thing to be corrected. One of the detained guys name is Adnan, last name Hajizada, not Zade Haji.
Thanks,
Farid

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Farid,

Thanks for pointing this out to me! Oh, boy! Do I feel stupid. I guess I was a bit quick with doing the post, as I was pressed for time doing both an English and a Swedish version.

Well, I guess I will never become a Hadji, even if I know such an honourary title - though in this case probably inherited over generations - should come before the last name.

With my experience of the Middle East, one would expect me not to make such a blunder, but now as I did it after all, I am grateful for you for pointing it out to me, so I could duly correct it.

Yours,

Vilhelm

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