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Azerbaijan Incurs Criticism By Deporting Swedish Journalists

Detained Swedish journalist Charlotta Wijkström (R), who was deported from Azerbaijan with two colleagues on April 18.
BAKU -- Azerbaijan has deported three Swedish journalists detained during the latest attempt by the opposition to hold a protest rally, drawing condemnation from an international press freedom group, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

My Rohwedder Street, Charlie Laprevote, and Charlotta Wijkström from the Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Television had traveled to Baku to film a documentary on human rights.

They were detained on April 17 as police thwarted an attempt by the opposition to hold an antigovernment protest at a downtown park.

Orkhan Mansurzadeh from the Interior Ministry told RFE/RL that the journalists had not been accredited at the Foreign Ministry and were deported on April 18 in line with the law.

But Street told RFE/RL that she and her colleagues had not concealed their profession when they applied for visas. She added that officials at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Sweden told them their documents would be sent to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged the Azerbaijani authorities to stop obstructing the international press.

"We deplore the illegal detention and deportation of our colleagues My Rohwedder Street, Charlie Laprevote, and Charlotta Wijkström and call on Azerbaijani authorities to allow them to report in the country without fear of harassment and obstruction," Nina Ognianova, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement on April 18. "It is of utmost concern that the international television crew was singled out for retaliation despite their valid documentation."

Dozens of activists were detained during the rally on April 17. Six were given custodial sentences of 5-15 days, 19 were fined, and 11 were given warnings.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for European Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füele expressed concern about recent developments in Azerbaijan, citing what he called "escalating pressures on journalists, youth, and political activists."

"We encourage the Azerbaijani authorities to allow the peaceful demonstrations to take place in relevant locations and call on the country to fully respect its OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and Council of Europe commitments in the fields of democracy and human rights," the spokesperson said in a statement on April 18.

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