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Police raid office of Azerbaijan’s Toplum TV

6 March 2024
Police outside the office of Toplum TV in Baku. Screengrab from video by RFE/RL

Azerbaijani police have raided the offices of the online television station Toplum TV.

Journalist Gulzar Mammadli reported on Wednesday afternoon that police had surrounded the building and that two of the site’s journalists, Elmir Abbasov and Araz Aliyev had been detained. RFE/RL reported that other journalists had been taken away by police and were currently not reachable.

The Interior Ministry told BBC Azerbaijan that ‘operational search measures’ were being carried out based on ‘information received about the activities of a group of people’.

The raid comes amidst a widespread crackdown on the few remaining media outlets still operating in Azerbaijan that do not take a pro-government line.

Toplum TV is an independent news site founded in 2016 by media lawyer Alasgar Mammadli. The site’s editor in chief is well known Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismail.

Azerbaijani political group the Third Republican Platform reported on Wednesday afternoon that they could not contact three of their members — Akif Gurbanov, Ruslan Izzatli, and Araz Aliyev, the latter also a Toplum TV journalist — and assumed that they had also been detained by police.

According to observers present at the scene, the police search of Toplum TV’s office concluded around 18:00, at which time the door to the office was sealed.

A seal on the front door of the Toplum TV office, following the police search. Image via Mikroskop Media

Mammadli told OC Media that as of 18:30, a raid was also being conducted at the home of Gurbanov. As well as being a member of the Third Republic Platform, Gurbanov is the chair of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives (IDI), a group advocating for democracy and free elections in Azerbaijan.

According to journalist Fatima Movlamli, the home of Toplum TV journalist Farid Ismayilov was also raided by police on Wednesday evening.

Prior to the raid, Toplum TV had reportedly already begun facing pressure. In early February, Meydan TV editor Orkhan Mammad told OC Media that prior to Azerbaijan’s snap presidential elections, pro-government media had frequently written about Toplum TV

‘We think that Toplum TV is also under pressure from the government’, said Mammad at the time.

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