Forbidden Stories and its partners will continue the work of the journalists arrested in Azerbaijan

23.11.2023 – On November 20 and 21, 2023, journalists Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinc Vaqifqizi and Mahammad Kekalov were arrested by the Azerbaijani authorities.

Forbidden Stories and its partners denounce the arbitrary and unfounded arrest of the members of Abzas Media. The charges brought against them are yet another ploy by the authorities in Baku to muzzle the country’s last remaining independent voices. The journalists’ lawyers have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights under Article 39, denouncing the seizure of several hard drives, telephones and computers belonging to them.

In recent months, journalists at Abzas Media have denounced corruption in the upper echelons of power, publishing damning investigations targeting individuals close to President Aliyev, including the country’s head of presidential security, Beyler Eyyubov, and the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeyhun Bayramov.

Forbidden Stories, an international network of investigative journalists that pursues the work of assassinated, detained and under threat reporters, was in contact with Ulvi, Sevinj and Mahammad before their arrest. Alongside its partners, it will pick up the investigations of Abzas Media journalists where they left off.

“It is fundamental that their investigations be pursued and published on a massive scale in the name of general interest and access to information. They stopped the messengers, but they won’t stop the message,” says Laurent Richard, journalist and director of Forbidden Stories.

“We strongly condemn the arrest of Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinc Vaqifqizi, and Mahammad Kekalov. Azerbaijani authorities must understand one thing: they cannot stop investigations by arresting journalists. On the contrary, journalists from all over the world will continue their work until the truth prevails, and all wrongdoing is exposed”, say Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, Pulitzer Prize winners and co-founders and directors of Paper Trail Media.

“The powerful judicial and police apparatus of Azerbaijan is once again being used to silence journalists exposing corruption and crime. We will support our fellow journalists in their pursuit of truth and join forces to yet again expose wrongdoing at the highest echelons of power in Azerbaijan “ says Miranda Patrucic, Editor-in-Chief of OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project).

As Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, in power since 2003, has endeavored to wipe out any kind of pluralism, he has been waging a ruthless war against the country’s remaining critical voices since 2014. Most independent media have been silenced or exiled.

Azerbaijan is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2023.