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Journalists harassed by Presidential Administration guards

(IRFS/IFEX) - On 20 July 2010, a group of journalists was harassed by Presidential Administration guards. The guards hindered the journalists from carrying out their work.

IRFS and Turan Information Agency employees Javid Gurbanov and Mehman Huseynov, Radio Liberty correspondent Abbas Atilay and "Bizim Yol" newspaper correspondent Haji Zeynalov were detained by the guards when they were taking pictures and filming a protest being held by Sabirabad region residents who had suffered losses due to flooding of the Kur river. The journalists were taken to the administrative building of the Presidential Administration where they were told that they were not authorized to film or photograph the administration's premises.

The journalists' footage and photographs were checked and anything that showed the Presidential Administration building was erased. The journalists were then given warnings against obtaining images of the premises in the future and were freed.

IRFS condemns the harassment of the journalists and characterizes the Presidential Administration guards' actions as a pressure tactic used against media personnel and a violation of journalists' rights to freely gather and distribute information. The organization notes that there is no legal documentation of a ban on the filming or taking of photographs of the Presidential Administration building and that no signage to that effect has been erected in the area.

IRFS further notes that journalists have been repeatedly detained for filming the Presidential Administration building, such that the organization previously issued a request to the administration asking for information regarding any laws regulating a ban on filming. No official response was provided.

Finally, IRFS emphasizes that in many democratic countries there is no restriction on obtaining images of presidential administration buildings and that media representatives, citizens, and even tourists can take pictures of these buildings. In this case, the rights of journalists as stipulated in local and international laws, including Article 50 of Azerbaijan's Constitution (on Freedom of Expression), Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (also on Freedom of Expression) and Article 163 of Azerbaijan Criminal Code (on interference in the professional work of journalist), were violated.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani government and the Presidential Administration to respect local and international laws, and to provide the necessary conditions required for journalists to carry out their work.

Click here to view a video of the actions against the journalists

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