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Reporters Attacked in Azerbaijan

(PRAGUE) Incited by local police, a mob attacked two Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists as they were reporting from a local market in Azerbaijan’s lawless Nakhichevan province.

Ilgar Nasibov and Malahat Nasibov, correspondents for RFE/RL’s Azeri Service, Radio Azadliq, were doing a live broadcast when several local officials, urged on by police, began beating them and breaking their equipment. Then, the attackers goaded seven or eight bystanders into joining the assault. Also beaten during the attack was Elman Abbas, an official with the Institute for Reporters’ Safety and Freedom, a local NGO.

“Azerbaijan is a dangerous place for journalists, especially in Nakhichevan, where our people have been attacked several times,” said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. “I expect the government in Baku to investigate this latest incident and take concrete steps to demonstrate that the safety of journalists matters, and that Azerbaijan is accountable to international standards of media freedom.”

This morning’s incident came as 40 police officers from Nakhichevan’s Babek district gathered at a market in the village of Nehram in order to enforce a new policy banning two or more people from gathering in any public space. As Ilgar and Malahat Nasibova were interviewing residents opposed to the ban, several police officers attacked them. Witnesses identified local officials, including Nehram’s postmaster, among the initial attackers. Afterwards, attempts by the journalists to file a complaint with the regional police station, the local prosecutor’s office and the the Ministry of Internal Affairs were all rejected.

“There was no incident,” Babek district police later told a Radio Azadliq journalist who asked about the attack.

Malahat Nasibov has been the victim of several attacks since she began reporting for Radio Azadliq in 2003. Her husband, Ilgar, was convicted of “defamation” by a court in Nakhichevan last year after e-mailing a complaint about police misconduct to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s official website. He has appealed his case to the European Court of Human Rights.