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A reporter working with Azerbaijan's opposition daily "Azadlig" was stabbed as he was leaving his office last week, the latest in a series of violent attacks against the journalist and the newspaper, report the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and other IFEX members.

Four unidentified assailants encircled Agil Khalil, who covers social and environmental issues for "Azadlig", as he was leaving his office in Baku on 13 March. One of the attackers stabbed him in the chest, narrowly missing his heart, according to IRFS.

According to the Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and ARTICLE 19, Khalil is convinced the attack is linked to his investigation of the involvement of public officials in illegal land sales.

This was the second assault on Khalil in a month. Two unidentified men attacked the journalist on 22 February and stole his ID while he was filming trees being illegally cut down in Baku, threatening to harm him further if he did not stop his investigation, say IRFS and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The journalist reported the incident to the police, but as of 14 March, no case had been opened.

"The attack on Khalil appears to be yet another episode in the unwavering campaign of harassment and intimidation against 'Azadlig' newspaper, a publication extremely critical of Azerbaijan's incumbent government," says IRFS.

Earlier this month Genimet Zakhidov, the newspaper?s editor-in chief, was sentenced to a four-year prison term for hooliganism. In 2006, Zakhidov's younger brother, Sakit, who is a correspondent for the newspaper, was sentenced to three years in jail on unsubstantiated drug charges.

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- CPJ:
(18 March 2008)

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