Amnesty International has issued a press release on persecution of journalists in the ex-Soviet country of Azerbaijan drawing the story from the third anniversary of an outspoken journalist’s assassination by Azerbaijan’s regime.

Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Hüseynov was murdered outside his home in the capital Baku, three years ago on Sunday. His case has become a symbol of the continuing human rights abuses faced by journalists in the country.

The outspoken editor-in-chief of Azeri opposition magazine Monitor, Hüseynov was shot seven times walking out of a lift on 2 March 2005. Thought to be the victim of a contract killing, Hüseynov’s death is the most serious case in a continuing series of assaults on opposition journalists.

His colleagues and international press freedom organizations ascribed his murder to the political content of the newspaper, which closed following his death.

In July 2006, a former Ministry of Internal Affairs official, charged with kidnapping and murder, admitted to Hüseynov’s murder while testifying at his own trial. He claimed that he carried out the killing on behalf of the former Minister of Economic Development, himself on trial for plotting the overthrow of the government. So far no one has been prosecuted for Hüseynov’s murder. 


Several journalists in Azerbaijan are in jail, some of them for over a decade.

One of those still in prison is opposition newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev who, after years of harassment by the authorities, was tried twice in 2007. He was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion.

Eynulla Fatullayev worked on Monitor until it was closed. He then launched two popular opposition newspapers, Realny Azerbaydzhan (Real Azerbaijan) and Gündelik Azarbaycan (Azerbaijan Daily). Both newspapers closed in May 2007 after a series of inspections of their premises by the authorities.

Fatullayev has been one of the few to challenge official anti-Armenian xenophobia in Azerbaijan and his 2005 visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto independent Armenian region that broke away from Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1991, was crucial for the arrest. After returning from Karabakh to Azerbaijan, Fatullayev wrote a story on the killing of several hundred Azeris in the city of Khojalu during the war by Armenian soldiers raising the possibility that the Azeri militia in charge of Khojalu might have deliberately prohibited Khojalu residents from leaving despite Armenian leadership’s offer for a humanitarian corridor.