Yerevan/Mediamax/. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir called for the immediate release of prominent Azerbaijani journalist and media expert Mehman Aliyev.
“There is every reason to believe that Mehman Aliyev’s detention and arrest is politically motivated and I respectfully call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the journalist and guarantee that his fundamental freedoms are not violated further,” Desir said.
He noted that there is no need to keep a journalist in detention for the sake of the investigation, or to block the activities of the Azerbaijani privately-owned news agency Turan, of which Mehman Aliyev is the director.
Mehman Aliyev was detained on 24 August. Today, the Yasamal district court decided to arrest him for an initial period of three months. He is charged with economic crimes.
Earlier tax officials claimed that the news agency had not paid taxes and owed the State an amount equivalent to approximately 18,600 euros. The officials also searched the news agency's office and seized documents. Turan has denied any wrongdoing and later announced that it would have to suspend its activities as of September.
In a letter to the authorities sent on 17 August, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media urged authorities “to carefully review the charges brought against Turan and to refrain from any measure that could impede the work of the news agency which contributes to media pluralism in the country.”
“Mehman Aliyev has frequently been invited as a speaker and expert to the South Caucasus Media Conferences held by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, most recently in May 2017, and at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meetings. He is known to be a thoughtful, trusted and deeply respected colleague,” the Representative said.
Volodymyr Ariev, General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists, also expressed concern regarding the detention of Mehman Aliyev.
“I call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Mehman Aliyev and abstain from using criminal code to investigate the case. Turan has already faced similar allegations in the past, and an audit conducted previously demonstrated that the agency was complying with its tax obligations. The Azerbaijani authorities must avoid any acts potentially having chilling effect on the freedom of the press in this country,” Volodymyr Ariev said.