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An Azerbaijani woman with an election poster for incumbent President Ilham Aliyev
The United Nations' human rights agency has urged the Azerbaijani authorities to "recognize and facilitate the work" of human rights and civil-society activists in the run-up to the October 9 presidential election.

In a statement issued on October 4, the agency expressed concern over the "restrictive environment" activists currently face in Azerbaijan.

The statement said all demonstrations complying with international human rights standards should be allowed.

It added that the authorities should not use excessive force or administrative measures against peaceful demonstrators, and should not undermine freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly.

Azerbaijan has been widely criticized for cracking down on dissent, independent media, and activists.

Also on October 4, several independent journalists were beaten during an opposition election rally in the central town of Sabirabad.

The opposition's single candidate, Camil Hasanli, is seeking to unseat the incumbent, Ilham Aliyev.
BAKU -- A group of journalists from independent and opposition media outlets has been attacked by a pro-government mob during an opposition rally in the central Azerbaijani town of Sabirabad.

RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Tural Mustafayev was among the journalists, said the October 4 incident took place at an election rally for Azerbaijan's united opposition presidential candidate, Camil Hasanli.

Mustafayev said some reporters were beaten, while others had their equipment damaged.

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The reporter said police officers stood by idly at the scene and made no effort to disperse the attackers.

Some 500 opposition supporters took part in the rally.

Hasanli's candidacy is backed by the National Council of Democratic Forces, an umbrella organization comprising most of Azerbaijan's opposition parties and groupings.

He is seeking to unseat incumbent President Ilham Aliyev in the October 9 election.

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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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