Azerbaijan: Prosecutors raid RFE/RL offices in Baku

A raid on Friday of last week of the Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) news service offices in Baku by Azeri prosecutors has created an uproar in the news media. RFE/RL representatives reported that armed police ordered employees to leave the radio headquarters building “Azadliq” in the capital of Baku, said the station’s director, Kenan Aliyev. He also reported that RFE/RL journalists are being summoned for questioning to the prosecutor’s office.

The US State Department issued a press release expressing that it is “deeply disturbed,” by the raid. The administration of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev said that they had no immediate comment, but that a statement would be made “very soon.” This raid is part of a larger crackdown on journalists in the ex-Soviet, oil rich autocracy, particularly on groups with foreign sources of funding, like RFE/RL whose sponsors include the US government.

The official court order stated that the search was part of an ongoing investigation of the Azerbaijani Service in connection with Azeri laws on foreign funding of NGO’s. US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski said that Azerbaijan’s relationship with it and with the West is “severely jeopardized by the crackdown on civil society.”

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