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SOCAR Joins Media Onslaught

Azerbaijan -- Idrak Abbasov, a Zerkalo correspondent, was hospitalized in Baku yesterday with a concussion and injuries. 19Apr2012
Security personnel from SOCAR, Azerbaijan's state oil company, attacked five independent journalists yesterday, including Ezmir Dzhavadova, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service.

The assault on the journalists came as they were filming a confrontation that erupted as SOCAR employees were demolishing houses in the village of Sulutepe on the outskirts of the capital, Baku. SOCAR claims that the houses were built illegally on company land.

Eldar Orujev, the company's legal chief, condemned the violence, but accused Abbasov of provoking the confrontation. Speaking with journalists yesterday, he said that the company would investigate the incident.

Witnesses say that Idrak Abbasov, an award-winning investigative journalist for the "Zerkalo" newspaper, was singled out in the attack. He was hospitalized with a concussion and injuries after being knocked unconscious and kicked and beaten.

Abbasov, who is now recovering, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that two dozen SOCAR security guards attacked him and Gyunai Musayeva, a journalist with the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat." He told RFE/RL they beat him for 20 minutes.

They reportedly deleted both reporters' recordings and damaged their equipment.

SOCAR guards tried to seize Dzhavadova's camera and smashed the windows of the taxi she was in together with two other reporters. She reports being terrified, but suffered no injuries.

The Index on Censorship reports that when staff members from the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) went to the scene to document the attacks, their taxi was pulled over by SOCAR employees and the journalists and their taxi driver were beaten.

Abbasov is a founding member of the IRFS and has faced long-standing threats to his security.

Last month, he was awarded an international prize for his reporting by the Index on Censorship campaign group.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has condemned the attack on Abbasov, with the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to "take resolute steps to end all forms of violence against journalists."