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Journalists harassed, restricted, information strictly controlled in Nakhchivan autonomous region during president's visit

(IRFS/IFEX) - From the moment President Ilham Aliyev commenced his visit to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the work of journalists in the region has been severely restricted.

Aliyev arrived on in Nakhchivan on 3 June 2008. IRFS regional correspondent Hekim Eldostu Mehdiyev reports that the participation of local correspondents has been hindered at events where the president is present. Even regional press organs associated with the government are not permitted to make reports independently and are obliged to broadcast their coverage only through AZTV news.

Representatives of the independent press in the region have been under surveillance since the president's arrival. Mehdiyev, who lives in Sharur region and also works for "Yeni Musavat" newspaper, has been prevented from traveling to Nakhchivan city for two days. He reported that he faces psychological pressure, and his work is being hindered. Technical tools used by journalists are also being meddled with. Mehdiyev reports that his telephone calls are subject to interference and there have been suspicious problems with the Internet.

Radio Liberty and Turan Information Agency regional correspondent Malahat Nasibova told IRFS a similar story. As of 3 June, calls she has made from her home, office and mobile telephones have all suffered from interference. She has had great difficulty contacting the press organs with whom she works, and their calls do not reach her.

"The speed of the Internet at home and in the office has been significantly lowered, and it takes hours before we are able to send information," stated Nasibova.

In general, people have been prevented from approaching the center of the region and its main city so that the president is not exposed to potential protest or complaint, according to Mehdiyev. All public buses arriving to Nakhchivan city from the outlying areas of the autonomous republic have stopped running, and the movement of civilian cars has been banned in the city.

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