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RFE/RL Reporters Beaten in Azerbaijani Exclave

RFE/RL correspondent Malahat Nasibov (right) conducts interviews in Naxcivan shortly before the attack.

RFE/RL correspondent Malahat Nasibov (right) conducts interviews in Naxcivan shortly before the attack.

Ilqar Nasibov and Malahat Nasibova, correspondents for Radio Azadliq, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, were reporting a story live at a local market in the Babek district of Azerbaijan's Naxcivan exclave this morning when a mob, incited by local police, attacked them.

Plainclothes police delivered the initial blows and broke the correspondents' tape recorder and video equipment before goading seven to eight bystanders to join in what became a brawl.

Elman Abbas, a representative of the Institute for Reporters' Safety and Freedom, a local NGO, was also beaten.

The three received numerous cuts and bruises in the attack and were forced to walk 10 kilometers or so back to Naxcivan City because no one would give them assistance.

"Azerbaijan is a dangerous place for journalists, but the risk is magnified in Naxcivan, where arbitrariness seems to be the only rule," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "Our people have faced repeated attacks here. I expect the government in Baku to investigate this latest incident and take concrete steps to demonstrate that the rights and safety of journalists matter, and that Azerbaijan is accountable to international standards for media freedom, even here."

Approximately 40 police officers had gathered at the market in the village of Nehram this morning to enforce a new ban that prevents two or more people from gathering in any public space. At about 11:30 a.m., the Nasibovs were interviewing residents who were protesting this restriction when they were attacked.

Witnesses identified local officials, including the Nehram village postmaster, as being among the initial attackers. The police failed to intervene once the violence began.

Attempts by the Nasibovs to register an official complaint at the Babek regional police station, local prosecutor's office, local executive authority, and local office of the Interior Ministry were rejected.

Malahat Nasibov has been the victim of several attacks since she began reporting for Radio Azadliq in 2003.

Ilqar Nasibov was convicted of defamation by a Baku court in 2007 and subsequently given a one-year suspended prison sentence after e-mailing a complaint about police misconduct to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's official website. He has appealed his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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