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AbzasMedia to continue from exile despite imprisonment of management team

2 February 2024
Image via AbzasMedia.

The embattled Azerbaijani news site AbzasMedia will continue to operate from exile, despite its entire management team and several journalists having been imprisoned by Azerbaijan’s authorities.

On Thursday, Abzas named veteran Azerbaijani journalist Leyla Mustafayeva as editor-in-chief. The move is understood to have been approved by the site’s founders. 

‘The government has depleted the resources of AbzasMedia by arresting its employees, and the resulting repressive environment makes it impossible to operate from Azerbaijan’, AbzasMedia said in a statement, adding that the new editorial team would be ‘scattered in different countries of Europe’.

Leyla Mustafayeva is an investigative journalist currently based in Germany. Mustafayeva became widely known for her journalistic activity surrounding the imprisonment of her husband, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli. Mustafayeva was among the first to report that the Georgian Government was complicit in Mukhtarli’s kidnapping and arrest from Tbilisi by order of the Azerbaijani Government, something that later appeared to be confirmed by a former top Georgian security official.

Mustafayeva also founded Fakt Yoxla, a media monitoring project.

In their statement, AbzasMedia also thanked supporters.

Thank you for your understanding and support during these difficult times. AbzasMedia will be committed to delivering accurate and unbiased news while maintaining the principles of journalism even in the current conditions’, the statement said.

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Writing on Facebook after she was appointed editor-in-chief, Mustafayeva vowed to prove the rightness of their cause.

Mustafayeva has also said that several leading international media organisations led by France’s ForbiddenStories had agreed to assist in continuing AbzasMedia’s work, including France 24, the Guardian, Le Monde, the OCCRP, Der Standard and others.

In late November, Azerbaijani police arrested five members of AbzasMedia and accused them of smuggling foreign currency. These included director and founder Ulvi Hasanli, editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifqizi, deputy director Mahammad Kakalov, and journalists Hafiz Babali, Nargiz Absalamova, and Elnara Gasimova.

Later, Ilhamiz Guliyev, a former police officer and human rights defender who had given an interview to AbzasMedia, was arrested on drug charges.

Azerbaijani authorities have since also arrested several bloggers.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Armenian on CivilNet