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IRFS employee, American journalist beaten in Baku

(IRFS/IFEX) - 17 June, 2011 - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the attack against American journalist Amanda Erickson and British human rights activist and IRFS employee Celia Davies by unidentified men on the night of 15 June.

The incident took place at about 12:20 a.m. near the house where Davies and Erickson live. Earlier, the two women had noticed four young well-built men watching them. The men apparently followed Davies and Erickson to their home, where they then held them down and proceeded to beat them without explanation. Both women sustained serious injuries requiring medical treatment. Davies suffered a broken arm in the attack.

IRFS does not rule out the possibility of a connection to the incident with their professional work. The attackers had earlier been following Davies and Erickson, and nothing was stolen from them in the attack.

Erickson and Davies both worked with local NGOs providing training for journalists and civil society activists. Erickson has also worked with the "Washington Post" and "The New York Times".

IRFS believes that the publication of a smear article in "Yeni Azerbaijan" newspaper against IRFS and its chairman, Emin Huseynov, immediately after the incident suggests that it was not a random attack. "Yeni Azerbaijan" is the official newspaper of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP).

IRFS recalls that the ruling regime toughened visa application rules for foreigners on the eve of November 2010 parliamentary elections. On 17 April 2011, three Swedish journalists who were trying to cover a protest were taken to police headquarters and deported a day later.

IRFS believes that the government, as the host of Eurovision 2012, which will bring hundreds of foreigners to the country, should put an end to these negative trends.

IRFS demands that the authorities punish the attackers and those who ordered the attack. IRFS also calls on the international community to take note of this case and demand that the Azerbaijani government fulfill its international human rights obligations.

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