CPJ: Azerbaijan Bars Entry to Photographer, Citing Her Armenian Origin

Posted July 8th, 2011 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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A U.S.-based media rights group says Azerbaijan has denied entry to a freelance photographer for the Bloomberg news agency because of her Armenian origin.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Diana Markosian, who also freelances for Voice of America, flew to the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, from the Latvian capital, Riga, on June 27, but was deported to Riga the next day.

CPJ says it spoke to Markosian after the incident. It quotes her as saying that Azerbaijani border guards detained her on arrival at Baku airport and told her that her travel document shows an Armenian last name. Markosian said she was kept in a transit zone for 16 hours until U.S. embassy personnel helped her to buy a ticket back to Riga.

Markosian told CPJ that she holds U.S. and Russian citizenship. She also said that before traveling to Baku, Bloomberg informed Azerbaijan's foreign ministry about her visit and received an assurance that there would not be complications.

An Azerbaijani government spokesman said last month that Markosian was deported because authorities cannot provide security to people from neighboring Armenia. The two countries remain in a state of war over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told the Azeri Press Agency that Baku had asked Bloomberg to send another photographer to the country instead of Markosian.

CPJ says it is “deeply disturbing” that Azerbaijani authorities would cite the ethnic background of a foreign reporter as a reason to bar her from the country. It says Markosian should be allowed to work in Azerbaijan as freely as any other journalist.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been engaged in peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mostly by Armenians.

The two neighbors began a violent conflict over the region in 1988 and later declared a cease-fire in 1994. But, violent incidents continue to take place on the borders of the disputed region.