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Azerbaijan arrests ninth media worker in ongoing crackdown

15 January 2024
Elnara Gasimova. Image via social media.

Police have arrested Elnara Gasimova, a journalist associated with AbzasMedia, on charges of smuggling; the latest arrest in Azerbaijan’s media crackdown, which began in late November 2023. 

On Monday, Gasimova was remanded in custody for two months and 17 days at the Khatai District Court in Baku.

Gasimova’s arrest on Saturday came after the journalist was summoned as a witness in the ongoing AbzasMedia court case on Saturday. 

Gasimova was handcuffed when brought to court on Monday, and accompanied by her lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov, who called the charges of smuggling ‘baseless and absurd’. 

‘[Gasimova] said she expected to be arrested; she believes that this arrest is related to her journalistic activities’, said Bayramov. ‘Gasimova thinks that the accusation of smuggling is baseless and absurd, that this article is being used as an excuse to arrest journalists’.

Beginning in late November, Azerbaijani police have arrested and charged five members of AbzasMedia with smuggling foreign currency as part of a group. The arrests included director and founder Ulvi Hasanli, editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi, deputy director Mahammad Kekalov, and journalists Hafiz Babali and Nargiz Absalamova.

AbzasMedia is known for its investigative reports, including on the Aliyev family’s business dealings, as well as alleged corruption in the reconstruction efforts undertaken in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020.

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Since the crackdown began, police have also arrested other individuals associated with independent media. 

Ilhamiz Guliyev, a human rights activist and former police officer who gave anonymous comments to AbzasMedia about the alleged practice of police planting drugs on suspects, was arrested at the beginning of December and charged with possessing a large quantity of methamphetamine.

The founders of Kanal 13 and Kanal 11, two online TV channels, were also arrested in November and December. The former was charged with building a house without a permit, and the latter with extortion.

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