Top U.S. Senators Urge Azerbaijani President to Respect Press Freedom

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http://www.turan.az-Top U.S. Senators Urge Azerbaijani President to Respect Press Freedom

Top U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) sent a letter to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, regarding the political targeting of journalists in the country.

“We are deeply troubled by serious and ongoing violations of press freedom in Azerbaijan,” reads the letter issued on Tuesday.

Specifically, the Senators highlighted the case of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was imprisoned in 2014 on false charges and conditionally released in 2016, TURAN’s Washington correspondent reports.

Senators Rubio and Cardin serve as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees Human Rights and are Commissioners on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission. Both Senators have engaged on Ms. Ismayilova’s case since 2015.

“It is our hope that your government will work to establish an open space for the media in keeping with Azerbaijan’s international commitments as a member of the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” wrote the senators. “We also urge you to immediately lift all restrictions on Ms. Ismayilova.”

According to the authors, the U.S. and Azerbaijan “share an interest in addressing regional security threats and ensuring European energy independence from Russia.”

The United States “would also like to encourage foreign investment in Azerbaijan’s economy to foster diversification and growth.”

“Unfortunately, persistent concerns regarding judicial independence and respect for fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan damage international confidence in the integrity of Azerbaijan’s institutions and the security of investments in the country,” reads the letter.

The Senators remind that more than five years since Khadija’s arrest and the closure of RFE/RL’s Baku bureau, journalists continue to be silenced and nearly all online and independent media have been blocked. In addition, there are no independent print or television media remaining in the country.

“Even Azeri journalists who cover Azerbaijan from outside the country are subject to harassment related to their work. We urge you to cease such harassment and allow independent media to once again operate inside Azerbaijan.”

As members of the Helsinki Commission the Senators “will continue to monitor Azerbaijan’s progress on press freedom and the ability of Khadija to travel internationally,” according to the letter.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Alex Raufoglu

Washington D.C,

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