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Rights groups condemn violence against Azerbaijan journalist

Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [advocacy websites] urged Azerbaijani authorities on Tuesday to conduct an investigation into the violent attack by police and security personnel against journalist Idrak Abbasov. Abbasov was beaten by the state energy company while filming the unlawful demolition of a house near the capital of Baku. Abbasov was wearing a yellow reflective vest identifying him as a journalist. The human rights groups condemned [OSCE press release] the violence, claiming that the attack demonstrates the Azerbaijani government's disregard for freedom of media. HRW Europe and Central Asia director Hugh Williamson criticized the government's response [press release] to the attack:

The fact that security personnel attacked Abbasov in broad daylight is utterly outrageous and shows the climate of impunity for attacks on journalists in Azerbaijan. The European Broadcasting Union should not stand by and watch silently as this violent campaign against the media unfolds.
John Dalhuisen, the AI Director for Europe and Central Asia, similarly condemned the Azerbaijani government [press release], saying it "must respect media freedom-and the song contest's co-organizers, the European Broadcasting Union, must come swiftly to the defense of journalists."

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] released its annual Attacks on the Press report [JURIST report] in February, expressing concern about increased censorship of journalists worldwide in 2011. Last May, journalism rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] its annual list of predators of press freedom [materials; press release], which included the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev. In April 2011, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials]. The reports cited many of the same countries and organizations [JURIST report] as the RSF for violating freedom of the press, including Azerbaijan. RSF's 2010 report [JURIST report] also listed many of the same offenders.

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