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Azerbaijan detains seventh journalist in ongoing media crackdown

13 December 2023
Hafiz Babali. Image via Facebook.

Azerbaijani police have detained an Azerbaijani journalist associated with AbzasMedia amidst an ongoing crackdown on journalists in Azerbaijan.

Hafiz Babali, a freelance journalist who has worked with AbzasMedia, was detained on Wednesday.

His relatives say that police officers detained him after searching his flat in Sumgayit, northwest of Baku. Babayev is partially blind and has three children.

Babali was previously interrogated on 28 November as a witness in the cases against several employees of AbzasMedia. Four members of staff at Abzas — its director Ulvi Hasanli, editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi, deputy director Mahammad Kekalov, and journalist Nargiz Absalamova — have been arrested on charges of smuggling foreign currency into Azerbaijan.

Following his interrogation, Babali said he was asked about AbzasMedia’s management and finances.

‘I have used AbzasMedia as a platform to publish my research and investigative stories, and I think I have succeeded’, he told journalists in late November. ‘This research has fully covered and revealed the shortcomings and corruption in Azerbaijan’s society’.

At the time Babali attributed the authorities’ crackdown on AbzasMedia to an early November investigation he made into companies allegedly linked to Ali Naghiyev, the head of Azerbaijan’s State Security Service, which had taken over a bank belonging to Vasif Talibov, the former head of Nakhchivan.

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‘This was the last straw’, Babali told RFE/RL .‘This is when they decided they had to stop it.’

Since the arrests at AbzasMedia, several others connected to independent media in Azerbaijan have also been rounded up.

These include 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. Guliyev was arrested and charged with possessing a large quantity of methamphetamine.

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

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.