News 14 february — 14:56

Azerbaijani Interior Ministry responds to Harlem Désir: 'Journalists participated in illegal protest rally' (Exclusive)

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RECORDED BY ILGAR HUSEYNOV, INFORMATION SECTION

On the eve, Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, criticised Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies in connection with the detention and alleged use of violence against journalists, who had been covering an illegal protest outside the Central Election Commission (CEC) building in Baku.

Harlem Désir noted that law enforcement agencies must respect the right of journalists to freedom, and also called for prompt investigation of incidents and punishment of those responsible.

Azeri Daily turned to Ehsan Zahidov, Head of the Press-Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, for comments on this statement by the OSCE representative.

Ehsan Zahidov

'On 11 February, police stopped an attempt by a group of people to hold an unauthorised rally in front of the CEC building, after which public order was restored. There were no wounded and arrested. However, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir, contrary to the mission and commitments of such an influential organisation, on the basis of unreasonable and fictitious information, accuses the Azerbaijani police of ill-treatment of journalists and their arrest. I believe that this is either a manifestation of his lack of professionalism, or an attempt to protect people who tried to disrupt public order in Azerbaijan and in Baku, in particular. While preventing illegal actions, the Azerbaijani police, in contrast to the well-known to him European police, in addition to fulfilling its duties with dignity, treated the group of protesters gathered there, representatives of the press in accordance with the law, showing humanity and patience. However, media representatives who stood on the side of Harlem Désir, and who, according to him, were abused by the police, not only interfered with the official activities of the police officers, but also insulted them,' he said.

Ehsan Zahidov noted that despite all this, the police again showed patience and restraint to the very end.

'This gentleman claims that the police did not allow media representatives to cover this event. And if everything was the way he says, then how from the very beginning of the unauthorised action before the police stopped it, numerous live broadcasts, photos and videos were distributed on all social networks? Therefore, once again I bring to the attention of the OSCE representatives: during this event the police did not use any violence against the media representatives who were there, and did not create any obstacles for them to carry out their duties. And if there is someone whom he calls a journalist who received a finger and face injury, then he was not a representative of the media, but was the most active participant of the illegal action who resisted the police. I hope that in his subsequent activities, Harlem Désir will tell the truth on all issues, show objectivity and will refer to specific facts,' said the spokesman for the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry.

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