I am reproducing an excerpt from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ weekly newsletter about the escalating media crackdown in Azerbaijan. Given that I need to write up tomorrow’s annual report and I am working on an investigation which I am hoping to finish by the middle of next week, I regrettably do not have the luxury to take my time with a proper commentary today.
Having said that, I do want you, the reader, to remember what you’re about to read below whenever you are reminded of the fact that the Azerbaijani government is a key strategic partner of both the Maltese government as well as the European Commission following president Ursula von der Leyen’s decision to fly to Baku to sign a major gas deal last year.
Bear in mind that Azerbaijan is also another fossil fuel rich country that projects the kind of caviar diplomacy that is favoured by other petrostates like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Azerbaijan is likely to host COP29 next year. I’m sure everyone who just spent the better part of two weeks fighting for a total phase-out of fossil fuels will be thrilled to be hosted by yet another oil cartel camouflaged as a country.
The newsletter excerpt follows below. You can also read this press release on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ website.
Other than that, all I have left to express at the moment is solidarity with colleagues around the globe who are under fire and under threat on a daily basis while heroically fulfilling their duty to report the truth. We all deserve better.
The December 13 detention of investigative journalist Hafiz Babali is the latest in a crackdown against the press in Azerbaijan. He is at least the seventh member of the press arrested in retaliation for his work in Azerbaijan in the past month.
Azerbaijani authorities have ordered Babali along with four journalists of the anti-corruption news organization Abzas Media to be held in pretrial detention for up to four months on currency smuggling charges. These charges come amidst accusations by authorities that Western embassies and donors funded the outlet illegally. Authorities are not allowing the outlet’s director Ulvi Hasanli to call his lawyers, while he and another journalist in detention have been banned from meeting or speaking with their families.
Azerbaijani authorities are targeting Abzas Media in order to silence its uncompromising reporting on official corruption allegations. CPJ has called on authorities in Azerbaijan to immediately release Babali along with all other unjustly jailed journalists and stop the ongoing wave of reprisals against the independent press.
CPJ is currently investigating the cases of three other journalists arrested on extortion charges since December 8 to determine if the arrests are related to their work.
Azerbaijan was recently named host of the U.N. climate change COP29 summit in 2024.
Separately this week, CPJ joined more than 2,000 journalists, media workers, and nonprofit organizations in demanding a stop to journalist deaths in the Israel-Gaza war. “Journalism plays an essential role in documenting history and serving the public interest by exposing realities too often obscured by disinformation and misinformation,” the statement reads. “Our reporting can reveal the true costs of war.”