European Federation of Journalists

EFJ demands independent inquiry into crisis at Azadliq Radiosu

Credits: Azadliq Radiosu.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is calling on the US government funded media organization Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to commission an independent inquiry into the management of its Azerbaijan service Azadliq Radiosu, which is facing a worrying wave of dismissals and resignations.

Over the past two years, four journalists have been fired and three others have resigned at Azadliq Radiosu, the Azerbaijani service of RFE/RL. The journalists concerned denounce threats and harassment by the radio’s editor-in-chief and management.

On 9 August, five former journalists (Islam ShikhaliRavan SeyfullaOrkhan RustamzadehArzu Aliyeva and Ramin Deko) issued a joint statement about what they describe as an oppressive environment and poor management of the Azerbaijani service, with consequences on its editorial independence and the quality of information.

The journalists who were fired, including long-term employee Turkhan Kerimov, dismissed a month ago, wrote letters to the president of RFE/RL, asking for an inquiry into the incidents. They have not yet received a consistent response.

Former RFE employee, prominent journalist Arzu Geybulla describes a context of “systematic mismanagement at senior level”, in a documented article published on 10 August. She taklks about a ” toxic and dysfunctional environment reigning within the radio”. “My question is whether we are actually going to see changes within the management of the radio or if it’s going to be business as usual — just as we often see happen in autocratic regimes, where leaders get away with what they do to their own people,” she writes. “Will RFE/RL prove that it’s different? It is hard to say at this point.”

“Such facts and such a crisis situation cannot go unanswered or unreacted by the management of RFE/RL”, insists the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “It is the very credibility of the media that is at stake. We are calling for complete clarity in the management of the radio station and for the reinstatement of the journalists who have been unfairly dismissed or forced to resign.”

Azadliq Radiosu operates from its broadcast centre in Prague. It was present in Azerbaijan until 2014, when its Baku office was raided and sealed, and its former head of office was arrested and jailed.