Azerbaijani MP Javanshir Feyziyev publicly slammed prominent journalists after a corruption scandal. Following a massive backlash, he deleted the post and resigned from the board of the Press Council, the country’s largest nominally independent press regulation body.
In the lengthy address published on Facebook, Feyziyev denounced his critics, which included a long list of journalists and members of the opposition as ‘lumpenproletariat thinkers’ and ‘national traitors’ who ‘join hands with Armenians’ in an ‘international smear campaign against Azerbaijan’.
He wrote the excoriating post after being criticised in the aftermath of a scandal in which £5 million of assets owned by him and his family were seized by British authorities following an investigation by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency.
[Read more: UK National Crime Agency seeks £15 million from Azerbaijani MP]
Without presenting evidence, Feyziyev also accused journalists of being ‘racketeers ‘ who ‘target high-ranking government officials and lawmakers, as well as wealthy businessmen’ for extortion through ‘blackmail’.
The MPs comments sparked particular outrage as he had criticised individuals who were members of the Press Council, a body of which he was also a member. The Council was established as a nominally self-regulatory press body in 2003 and is widely understood to be under the purview of state authorities.
One prominent journalist, Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief of news portal Virtual Azerbaijan, even appeared to call for Feyziyev’s arrest. ‘MP Eldaniz Salimov insulted a policeman and was arrested. MP Javanshir Feyziyev insulted 18 journalists. So we didn't have as much respect in this country as a police sergeant?!’, he wrote.
The Media Development Agency (MEDIA), established by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in 2021, also issued a statement condemning Feyziyev’s comments.
‘At a time when consistent measures are being taken to improve the information environment in our country, it is unacceptable for some individuals to use their status to use insulting and accusatory statements against members of the media that do not fit into an ethical framework’, the statement reads.
Upon announcing his resignation from the board of the Press Council, Feyziyev explained that he now believed the initial post to be ‘quite harsh’ and a result of the ‘impact of negatively charged materials on [him]’ — though he also said he did not intend to ‘contradict’ it.