Global Ukraine

Ukraine should not Help Authoritarian Countries in Cracking down on Freedom of Expression

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The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is deeply concerned about the detention of Azerbaijani opposition journalist Fikrat Huseynli in Kiev and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to immediately release him and stop contributing to the repressive steps of authoritarian countries aimed at intimidating their critics living abroad.

IRFS believes that there is a political motive behind Fikrat Huseynli’s detention by the Ukrainian border guard officers on October 14 at an Interpol request issued by the Azerbaijani authorities. An indirect proof of the political motives behind the arrest is the fact that the journalist was detained not at the time of arrival in the country but during his departure from Ukraine, where representatives of Azerbaijani intelligence services conducted illegal surveillance of him for several days.

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«The arrest of the Azerbaijani opposition journalist by the Ukrainian authorities at the request of the authoritarian government of Azerbaijan is a serious blow to the common European values such as protection of freedom of expression, which Ukraine has committed itself to respect as part of its membership in the Council of Europe and the OSCE, – IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov said. – In less than two months since the Association Agreement signed with the European Union took effect in Ukraine, two foreign journalists have already been detained in the country at the request of authoritarian countries. Last month, at Uzbek authorities’ request filed with the Interpol, Uzbek journalist Narzullo Okhunjonov, who had been living in exile since 2013, was detained on similar politically motivated charges in Ukraine. Ukraine should stop the practice of arresting journalists living in exile and immediately release Fikrat Huseynli and Narzullo Okhunjonov thereby showing that the country does not intend to turn away from the common European path of development».

IRFS calls on the authorities of the Netherlands, a citizen of which Fikrat Huseynli has been since 2015, to render all possible assistance for his speedy release and to raise a question in the European Council about the increasing number of politically motivated detentions at the request of authoritarian countries in Ukraine, which has recently announced that a fast integration into the European Union is a priority for them.

IRFS further calls on the European Parliament to reassess the situation with freedom of expression in Azerbaijan as it happened immediately after the abduction of investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli in Georgia and his illegal extradition to Azerbaijan and to communicate its concern about the inadmissibility of the persecution of journalists to the authorities of Ukraine and Georgia, who have ratified the Association Agreement with the European Union.

IRFS calls on the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the European Union to not allow authoritarian regimes to abuse international legal mechanisms in arresting dissidents forced to live in political exile.

In light of the increasing cases of abuse of Interpol mechanisms by countries such as Azerbaijan, Turkey and Uzbekistan in the persecution of critics, IRFS calls on the international community to urgently reform the Interpol to preclude the use of this international organization as a transnational tool of political strife.

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IRFS urges the Azerbaijani authorities to stop the persecution of journalists both inside and outside of Azerbaijan and to release journalists Mehman Huseynov, Afgan Mukhtarli, Seymur Hazi, Aziz Orujov, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Fikrat Ibishbayli, Afgan Sadigov, Elchin Ismayilli, Javid Shiraliyev, Mahbub Zulfugarli, Ziya Asadli and Arshad Ibrahimov, bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustemzade, writers Saday Shakarli and Tofig Hasanov, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov.

Given the gross violation of freedom of expression by the authorities of both Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, IRFS calls on the current authorities of Ukraine to not repeat the shameful practice of extraditing foreign dissidents as it happened during Yanukovych’s time, but rather to use all international protection mechanisms until foreign dissidents are granted political asylum. GU

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