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Mediaforum employee harassed during demonstration

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the use of force by civilian-clothed individuals, suspected of being law enforcement officers, against Mediaforum website employee Erkin Khalilov. The incident occurred during a 3 July 2010 protest carried out by the Musavat Party and the Union for the Sake of Democracy in front of the Science Academy metro station and in the garden in front of the academy. IRFS condemns the incident as an attack on free expression.

Khalilov told IRFS that he was forcefully placed onto a bus together with some of the protesters. The police reportedly tore up his press card and confiscated his camera.

Khalilov was removed from the scene of the action, taken to Ganjilik metro station and later released. Khalilov told IRFS that he was detained because he was taking pictures at the protest. "I photographed an apartment building facing the metro, where a sign proclaiming 'Live on Musavat' was displayed from a 5th floor apartment. Police knocked on the door of the apartment but no one answered. Because I photographed all of this, civilian-clothed men who are believed to be police forcibly took my camera away from me. I showed them my press card but they tore it up. When I approached journalists and the Yasamal District Police Department Chief to inform them about this, they forced me into a bus," Khalilov explained.

Mediaforum Deputy Editor Hikmet Sabiroglu told IRFS that the incident was under investigation because the people who took Khalilov's camera were wearing civilian clothes. IRFS was later informed that Khalilov's camera was returned to him on 5 July.

IRFS notes that interfering in the work of a journalist who is carrying out his professional work is a violation of the right to freely gather and disseminate information. Such action also contradicts Article 50 of the Republic of Azerbaijan's Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, this is a violation of Article 163 of the Republic of Azerbaijan's Criminal Code (interference in journalists' professional work).

IRFS calls on the government and law enforcement agencies of Azerbaijan to respect local and international laws, to create appropriate conditions for journalists to carry out their professional work and to sanction the person or persons who used force against Khalilov.

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