The International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) is deeply saddened by the death of Azerbaijani journalist Rasim Aliyev on the 9th of August due to injuries sustained from a beating the previous day. Mr. Aliyev had openly criticized a football player over Turkish flag-waving & rude gestures made toward Cypriot fans in the aftermath of the Azerbaijan-Cyprus match. In the weeks that ensued, he received numerous threats via social media, something he was not unused to. Mr. Aliyev had experienced similar intimidations over earlier pieces on social issues. Although the case is still under investigation, the journalist had told MeydanTV, an alternative news outlet based in Berlin, to have been attacked earlier by a group of individuals after agreeing to meet up with a relative of the soccer player in question.
Rasim Aliyev was active at the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom & Safety (IRFS), an Azeri NGO dedicated to press freedom and combatting state censorship. A spokesman from the countries’ semi-state press agency pointed out not to “politicize” the issue in advance, until the authorities have completed their investigation into the case. Unresolved border- and geo-political issues remain a delicate matter in the region, heavily influencing social & political life.
Violence against critical journalists has been characterized as a cyclical, as attacks & intimidation against members of the press corps are sadly commonplace. Most cases remain unsolved, including the death of Monitor magazine’s editor-in-chief Elmar Huseynov in 2005 and independent journalist Rafig Tigi in 2011. Reporters Without Borders placed Azerbaijan at 160 in their 2014 Press-Freedom Index, below DR Congo & Iraq.
“Rigid efforts must be taken by Azerbaijan & the international community to protect journalists from harassment & their right to express themselves. Authorities must thoroughly & transparently investigate the murder of Mr. Aliyev. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of a democratic society, where ideas can be shared & expressed without restraint.” IFLRY Caucasus Programme Manager Ralph Aerts states.
“The recent killings underlines a grave problem for the Azeri government. Although just holding the chairmanship of the Council of Europe last year, Azerbaijan is still not delivering to its promise of human rights, democracy and the Rule of Law. IFLRY gives its condolences to the families and friends of Rasim.” Concludes Christian Scharling, IFLRY President.