Thursday, April 28

How Azerbaijani authorities deport foreign journalists

On April 17th, three Swedish journalists were taken to the police department first, then to the state migration office and then deported. 

The video is taken from the Swedish channel where the video been posted. The men in civilian clothes taking the journalists to the police department by now have become avid "assistants" of local police, helping to detain people on the streets. 

And here is how one of the local journalists- Khadija Ismayil remembers the incident:

I was there when these guys were arrested. They have been standing in the square with me and dozens of other journalists when plain cloth people  (like the ones who always "help" police to disperse people in the rallies) grabbed them and forced them to somewhere. I asked the guys who they are, where they are taking my colleagues  - no response. Only when we arrived at police station we could figure out what is happening. 
I entered the police station to help with communication as there was no one speaking English in the police. Inside the police station, the same plain cloth guy demanded me to stop talking on the phone (I have been reporting what happened to media) and give him my phone. I asked who he is and why should I give the phone. He screamed at me. Tried to take my phone by force. I gave up the phone. They pushed me to the separate room. Few minutes later My, Charlie and Lotta were brought to the same room. They took my ID and documents of Swedish journalists. One policeman was asking them about names, DoB, etc. 
I was told they don't have accreditation and they couldn't film. I explained that they haven't been filming yet and accreditation is not a license to film. they wouldn't listen to me. They told me that these journalists came as tourists, not as journalists. I tried to explain that: 
We have same visas for tourists and journalists. 
In the invitation letter to the embassy in Stockholm it was written that these guys are coming to produce reports about democracy and Azerbaijan- EU relations. So purpose of the visit was clearly indicated. 
Embassy in Stockholm was very friendly and issued visas in very short period. The embassy supposed to send documents for accreditation to MFA. They arrived on Saturday morning. and on Monday first thing in their schedule would be a visit to MFA. They also requested interview in presidential administration. In fact accreditation is needed ONLY for access to state agencies and events.
THERE IS NO LAW requiring filming permit from anyone in the country in the public places.MFA HAS NO AUTHORITY TO  LICENSE journalism activity. Accreditation is for being invited to the press briefings, etc. 
After police checked my ID and found out who I am, I was forced to leave the police station, even though my colleagues didn't have any translators.  Me and their cameraman Zsolt were waiting in front of the police station. Then the girls called and told me that the police took them through the back door of the police station, put them into the police car and taken to the Migration office. There they have spent more than 24 hours in custody ILLEGALLY. and then deported. 
Migration service can detain and deport people ONLY IF THEY ARE ILLEGALLY IN THE COUNTRY - for example, crossed the border illegally, or have no visas, or their visas are expired. 
I spoke to migration lawyer Alovsat Aliyev (head of the Azerbaijan Migration Center - NGO providing legal assistance to migrants and on migration issues). He said if these guys decide to sue Azerbaijan for being deported ILLEGALLY (that is what it was), they will definitely win the case. 
Obviously we were witnessing one more case when governments actions were STUPID. If people in the government have no brains, you get into diplomatic scandals. Diplomats were there, helping the guys (they spent more than 24 hours in custody of Migration department of the Interior ministry), now they are deported, reached home safely. Now hopefully, diplomats can talk openly and say all what they think about the case. 
It was a shame, and I don't think there is a way to justify these actions.

No comments: