REGIONS:

SUBSCRIBE:

Sign up for weekly updates

Authorities in Nakhchivan impose news blackout on detainee's death

(RSF/IFEX) - 30 August 2011 - Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the way that security officials in Nakhchivan – an autonomous Azerbaijani exclave between Armenia and Iran - have been harassing journalists in an attempt to impose a news blackout on a death in detention and the disappearance of four other young people who had been summoned for questioning.

"After eliminating almost all the sources of news and information, Nakhchivan's security services are carrying out intolerable human rights abuses with complete impunity," Reporters Without Borders said. "The few independent journalists working there are under a great deal of pressure. The death of a citizen in detention one day after his arrest and the disappearance of four other people are tests for the government of Azerbaijan, which signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE."

"If the central government in Baku wants to demonstrate its sovereignty over Nakhchivan and its respect for its international obligations, it must immediately ensure that the media are able to operate there and it must rein in the regional authorities, who are resorting to increasingly violent authoritarian methods."

Journalists ran into problems when they tried to investigate the death in detention of Turac Zeynalov, a resident of Arazin, a village in the district of Julfa. While interviewing Zeynalov's relatives, they were accosted by members of the Ministry of National Security (MNS), who tried to seize their cameras and microphones.

Malahat Nasibova, a reporter for the independent news agency Turan, was insulted by an MNS official and accused of collaborating with "the nation's enemies." She was then summoned for questioning at MNS headquarters but decided not to go. Reporters Without Borders is concerned about her safety.

Zeynalov did not return after responding to an MNS summons on 24 August. His relatives went to the ministry's headquarters the next day and found his body. It bore the marks of severe beating and torture, especially on the head and face. Officials admitted "slapping him once or twice to teach him a lesson" but an MNS statement said he died "as a result of a cancer." The family has not received any medical certificate about the cause of death and all their requests for information have met with silence from the authorities.

The MNS claimed that Zeynalov committed "high treason" by spying for neighbouring Iran but no evidence of this has been produced and Nakhchivan's authorities have refused to make any other comment aside from cautioning against "rumours."

In response to questions from journalists, the Azerbaijani interior minister in Baku said "Baku cannot interfere in Nakhchivan's affairs." It was the news agency Turan that reported that four other young people have disappeared after recently being summoned by the MNS.

An increase in tension between Azerbaijan and Iran is just the latest pretext for a crackdown in Nakhchivan, where harassment of journalists has been on the increase recently. Arbitrary detention, confinement in psychiatric hospitals and torture are all common in this autonomous territory.

Latest Tweet:

Exiled Sudanese activist Mohamed Boshi who went missing in Egypt has resurfaced under jurisdiction of Sudanese auth… https://t.co/W8cxgRweLs

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.

CLOSE