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Posts tagged ‘journalists’

Dictatorship covered in oil

As we read about the modern day dictators especially in the Middle East, Azerbaijan’s dictator President hasn’t been spoken about as much as the others. It is one of the worst countries with a suppressing brutality, undemocratic but with huge oil resources. Azerbaijan is characterized by low levels of freedom of expression and listed among the bottom 20 in Reporters Without Borders, recently released Press Freedom Index 2010. The entire list consists of 178 states.

Azerbaijan has a short history as it was created in 1920 as the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. They got Zaratustras teaching from the Persians before they were Christianized around 400 BC. A couple of hundred years after, the Arabs brought Islam but the tension remained between Russia, Turkey and the Persians. In 1812, the Russian Tsar won a military campaign against the Shah and the Russians gained control over most of Azerbaijan but the northern part declared its independence in 1918 but was quickly occupied by the Red Army. The communists now took of the silk gloves and eliminated the nationalists, religious and others who might pose a threat towards them.

1988 marked a bloody year as the armed conflict for Nagorno-Karabakh from February 1988 to May 1994 between the majority ethnic Armenians and was backed by the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan which resulted in an ethnic cleansing on both sides. Azerbaijan lost a large part of its territory and the situation is still tense until today.

Aliyev junior, known as a playboy and his affection for luxury life and the roulette table is trying to be more and more like his strong and iron willed father who was a former KGB chief and ruled the country for more than 30 years. Once Aliyev senior ordered shut down for all casinos in the country after his son had got into a huge debt to a Turkish man. But he has done surprisingly well after being vice President of the states oil company since 1994. Aliyev is sharp, well dressed, speaks fluent English and has a charming smile ready for any occasion. He has developed a very good knowledge of the modern world’s politics and economics but the intelligence company Stratfor.com who has links to the CIA described him; “Ilham Aliyev lacks his father’s charisma, political skills, contacts, experience, stature, intelligence and authority. Aside from that he will make a wonderful president.” Ilham Aliyev turned to rule his people with a brutal hand and doesn’t allow democracy and freedom of speech. He even wanted to change the constitution in 2009 enabling him to stand as long as he wants as a ruler.

When Anita Utseth then-Secretary of State for Petroleum and Energy, visited the Oil and Gas Conference in June 2007, she got the chance to join a meeting with Aliyev but it showed to be a disaster when she started talking about free speech and human rights. Utseth was insulted and yelled at and as the U.S. embassy memos that were leaked out to Wikileaks, Aliyev had told her that she had no right to speak about the human right issues and a serious of meetings was cancelled. Later on in a meeting with two managers of the oil company BP, an extremely upset Aliyev said that it was “unacceptable” for Norway to “teach” him about human rights. “It’s only the U.S. that can treat me like this, because the U.S. is the world’s only superpower,” he said, according to embassy note.

4 years later, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Espen Barth Eide called on the Aliyev government to respect the human rights followed by the visit of Norways Crown Prince Haakon’s visit to Baku where he expressed his protest against the suppression of human rights and freedom in Azerbaijan explaining that Norway is not only interested in oil but in democracy and human rights as well.

Suppressing journalism

Aliyev has planned to build pipelines that would take Azaerbaijans Caspian Sea gas reserves through Turkey and to the rest of the continent and this diplomatic and global improvement has allowed the western world to ignore the human rights violations. That’s why the government has continued to imprison Eynulla Fatullayev, a 2009 CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient. The editor of two now-closed newspapers, Fatullayev was imprisoned in April 2007 on a series of fabricated charges, including terrorism and defamation, in retaliation for his investigation into the 2005 murder of his boss and mentor, Elmar Huseynov. He was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison as Fatullayev alleged that Huseynov’s murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and that authorities had engaged in a cover-up in the aftermath. Fatullayev’s supporters did also face an aggressive campaign of harassment after his arrest and an anonymous male caller telephoned Emin Fatullayev, the editor’s father, at his Baku home and said he and his son must “shut up once and for all” or “the entire family will be destroyed,” the elder Fatullayev told CPJ.

 

In 2007, the Norwegian reporter and documentary producer Erling Borgen and his cameraman Dag Inge Dahl were leaving Azerbaijan after a weeklong reporting trip focusing on freedom of expression and Fatullayev’s case when they were approached by 7 men. The men seized the journalist’s bags claiming they were overweight and checked the luggage. When the journalists arrived in Oslo, Borgen said, the reporting material, video footage, documents and papers were gone from the bags. The journalists had backed up the files, however, and completed the documentary in late year.

The government has also put restrictions about independent online news and many websites with critical journalism have been periodically blocked domestically. For example, the Azeri language website RFE/RL was blocked for two days after it posted a translation of a Washington Post story about nine luxurious homes in Dubai, worth around US$75 million, that had been purchased in the names of the president’s three young children those who documented the problems faced pressure.

President Ilham Aliyev has denied there is a problem with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan but the evidence speaks for its self as journalists and bloggers gets arrested and face restrictions. It is an assault on independent journalism and freedom of speech and I hope that the international world will see through the oil and protest on these human rights abuses.

 

Russian journalists fear for their life

Journalists and media workers all over the world have been targeted every day all over the world for their work to cover important happenings and to report it to the public. They have been experiencing torture, beating and murder and most of the crimes go unpunished.

A joint report says that since 1993, more than 300 journalists have been killed in Russia with only 52 of the murders with confirmed motive.

Novaya Gazeta

Novaya Gazeta was founded in April 1993 of former journalist from Komsomolskaja Pravda. It is published 4 times a week in 14 Russian cities. This is one of the few Russian newspapers that are critical towards Kremlin and has been known for its journalism about the Chechen conflict. In June 2006, the former President in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbatsjov and the representative Aleksandr Lebedev bought 49% of the newspapers stocks. The rest of 51% is owed by the editorial collective. Gorbatsjov has supported the newspaper from it was founded and it has been said that he used some of the money he got from the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 to establish it. Unfortunately in the last 10 years, 5 journalists working for Novaya Gazeta been killed.

The first thing Vladimir Putin did when he became President in 2000 was to go to war against Chechnya and also against the freedom of speech. Even if everybody has internet, the freedom of speech is almost none existing. According to journalist Elena Milashina in Novaya Gazeta says that the freedom to travel abroad, that there is still open borders is the last thing left of the freedom of speech, a last sign of democracy according to her.

Elena Kostyuchenko works also at Novaya Gazeta with criminality as specialty. “The worst part is not the threats, but the phone calls from Kremlin telling us what to do and what not to do and to think about our murdered colleagues. We ask ourselves; who is next? We try not to think about it and continue our work.” The sensor is the most important media law as they always call and warn journalists of what they can write about and not to write. Many journalists have no choice to follow this rule and get paid.

Anna Politkovskaja


The journalist in Novaya Gazeta, Anna Politkovskaja gave a truthful picture of Russia through her 15 years of the bloody wars in Chechnya and North Caucasus. October 7th 2006, she was executed with several gunshots outside her apartment in Moscow.

Anna Politkovskaja was known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict and for her criticism of then Russian President Vladimir Putin. She wrote several books about the Russian and Chechen wars including the book Putin’s Russia. Her murder occurred on Vladimir Putin’s birthday and was describes as a contract killing.

The Russian government is playing double standard when it comes to journalism. They want the journalists to be the puppy of the government and write exactly what the government wants them to write. Others who want to give a true picture of the situation pay with their lives.

Dark future for paper

The paper version of the newspaper is currently under pressure as they publish 200,000 newspapers in 14 cities 4 times a week. The future looks dark for the paper version but bright at the internet. The newspaper has most readers between 30 and 50 years that are educated. Now, the new major in Moscow has imposed that the small avis kiosks are going to be removed and banned. This will hit the Novaya Gazeta hard as the avis kiosk is the most important income source. They don’t have many ads because the companies fear to publish their companies’ names as the Kremlin also calls them with warnings. Instead, the government has offered the Newspaper to sell through new newspaper in wending machines. These newspaper wending machines have space for a total of 1200 examples in a city with 16 million residents.

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