Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Free Press Unlimited is gravely concerned about the disappearance of the exiled Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who is now being held in a detention centre in Baku, Azerbaijan. We urge the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release him. Furthermore, Georgian authorities must investigate, try and punish this crime against journalist Afgan Mukhtarli. 

On 29 May the wife of Mr. Mukhtarli reported his disappearance to the Georgian police. While the Ministry of Interior announced a country-wide search, on May 30 came to light that the journalist is being held in the territory of Azerbaijan. His lawyer told Amnesty International, that Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi by plain-clothed men who spoke Georgian. The men tied up the journalist in a car, took him to the outskirts of Tbilisi and beat him relentlessly. They then changed cars twice before taking him across the border to Azerbaijan.

Unsafe to stay in Georgia

Just a week before this abduction Afgan Mukhtarli mentioned in an interview with JAMnews (a Free Press Unlimited partner in Georgia) that it was unsafe to stay in Georgia. The Azerbaijani journalist spoke openly about how human rights activists and journalists from Azerbaijan are discouraged from staying in Georgia. “There’ve been attempts made over the past 5-6 months to force out those Azerbaijani political activists, journalists and human rights advocates who once moved to Georgia,” says Mukhtarli.

Investigative journalist under pressure

Mukhtarli is an investigative journalist who had to flee to Georgia due to persecution by the Baku government. He is one of several journalists and human rights activists who have been under pressure from the Georgian authorities in recent months, due to their alleged threat to the security of Georgia. Afgan Mukhtarli, who according to his lawyer was kidnapped in Georgia, now faces torture and other ill-treatment in custody.

Protest action against the abduction/detention of made today by JAMnews in Tbilisi
Protest action against the abduction and detention of Afgan Mukhtarli in Tbilisi. Photo by JAMnews.

Crimes against journalists

Journalists play a crucial role in society. They function as a watchdog and expose crimes and injustice. However, in some countries and regions it is close to impossible for journalists to do their job. Crimes against journalists are the biggest threat to press freedom and access to information at this moment. 

We believe that everyone should have access to reliable information and independent news. People deserve to know. Journalists and media workers all over the world should be able to conduct their work in a safe, violence and censorship free environment.