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RFE/RL's Azeri Reporters Attacked At Baku Steel Plant

Nushabe Fatullayeva, one of two Radio Azadliq journalists attacked while covering an incident at a Baku steel factory
Nushabe Fatullayeva, one of two Radio Azadliq journalists attacked while covering an incident at a Baku steel factory
RFE/RL journalist Nushaba Fatullayeva followed a tip about a skirmish at a small steel factory on the outskirts of Baku, and found herself the target of thugs who stole her camera and broke her mobile phone.

Radio Azadliq, RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service, was notified on July 16 that a "commando attack" was happening at the Ahmet Atakhan D.S. steel factory. When Fatullayeva arrived at the factory, she encountered several men she recognized as being security guards from a rival company, forcibly removing the factory manager from the building. As she began to document the scene, the men saw her camera and attacked her. One held her hands, another squeezed her shoulders, and another tried to take her equipment, ultimately confiscating her video camera.

Fatullayeva described the incident to RFE/RL colleagues as follows: "First they took my camera, then I tried to make a phone call and they came again to take my phone. I resisted, I told them several times that they are breaking the law. But they told me as a woman I should have self-respect and obey their demands."

Turkhan Kerimov, another RFE/RL reporter who arrived soon after to cover the incident, was also roughed-up and a flip camera he had brought for Fatullayeva was also seized.

After a call from RFE/RL's Baku bureau to Azerbaijan's Ministry of Internal Affairs to report the incident, one of the men who attacked Fatullayeva returned her video camera, but without the memory card. Fatullayeva says the attacker returned her equipment in the presence of local police officers who arrived at the factory, but "just stood there and acted like they were doing me a favor." The flip camera remains missing and her personal phone is broken. Both Fatullayeva and Kerimov returned to the bureau without serious injuries.

RFE/RL has sent an official letter to Ramil Usubov, Minister of the Interior, and filed an official complaint with local law enforcement. The U.S. Embassy in Baku is investigating the incident and has requested a meeting with Fatullayeva and Kerimov.

The Ahmet Atakhan D.S. factory is a Turkish-Azerbaijani joint venture which also serves as a home for 30 IDP families. RFERL produced a photo essay on this factory last year.

The manager of the company told RFE/RL that the company has been targeted by Baku Steel Company (BSC), which allegedly wants to eliminate all rivals in the market. The Bakuelectrostamp (Bakelektroqaynaq JSC) factory earlier signed everything over to BSC, allegedly under pressure and with the backing of high-level government officials.

RFE/RL's Baku bureau was unsuccessful in attempts to reach the management of BSC for comment on Monday's attacks.