Azerbaijani Reporter Detained After Covering Anti-government Protests

Posted June 13th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Police in Azerbaijan have detained a photographer and blogger on charges of “hooliganism”, in another case activists link to the state repression of independent news media.

Mehman Huseynov, who works for the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Security and is active in the social media, was detained in Baku on Tuesday evening.

The 23-year-old photographer was accused of insulting and injuring police officers during an unauthorized opposition rally on May 21 when Azerbaijan's capital hosted a European song festival.

Rights groups link his arrest to his coverage of pro-democracy protests in Baku during the Eurovision Song Contest.

Amnesty International is calling for Huseynov's immediate release. In its statement, the group says Huseynov's arrest “comes amid worrying rise in police harassment of young activists who participated in protests around Eurovision.”

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of the photojournalist, whom it describes as “well known for his coverage of police violence and his defense of freedom of information.”

The group says Huseynov's arrest bears all the hallmarks of an act of political revenge and intimidation.

Politicians and rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of President Ilham Aliyev of suppressing freedom of speech and cracking down on dissenters and journalists.

Huseynov's detention comes a day after a court in Azerbaijansentenced an Iranian journalist to two years in prison on charges of drug possession. He denies the charges. Several rights groups have said he was arrested for his professional activities.

During a visit to Baku earlier this month, Clinton urged the government to let citizens express their views peacefully and to release those who have been detained for doing so. She also called on Azerbaijani authorities to respect journalists' rights.

But observers say many politicians are reluctant to criticize the government of the oil-rich country.

Leaders of Azerbaijan claim it is a democratic country.