The murder of journalist Rasim Aliyev left Azerbaijani civil society reeling in shock. Reactions came from journalists and activists from inside the country and abroad.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev vowed to “personally oversee” the probe into Rasim Aliyev’s beating, which led to the journalist’s death on August 9.
But those words ring hollow for human rights groups and journalists, who cry foul over the worsening human rights climate and violence against journalists that goes unpunished in the country.
“For too long, Azerbaijan’s journalists have been subjected to persecution and horrific attacks such as this one,” said Natalia Nozadze, Azerbaijan Researcher at Amnesty International. “Their killings frequently go without the culprits being prosecuted and brought to justice, despite the cynical assurances of impartial investigations,” said
The European Union called for “a full and transparent investigation… to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
“The EU supports the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the media, which are fundamental elements of a democratic society. Azerbaijan needs to promote a safe environment for journalists and other media representatives, enabling them to carry out their work without fear of violence or persecution,” according to the European External Action Service statement released on August 10, 2015.
Inside Azerbaijan, Aliyev’s murder caused anger and consternation.
Azadliq columnist Khalig Bahadur blamed the climate of impunity which led to Aliyev’s murder.
“Unsolved murders of journalists Elmar Huseynov, Rafiq Tagi, dozens of cases of attacks against journalists. Crimes against the press will continue unless their perpetrators and masterminds are punished. Unless the culprits are found, the government and incumbent authorities will bear responsibility for these crimes,” Kavkaz Uzel quoted Bahadur as saying.
In the same vein, opposition politician Isa Gambar, the Head of the National Strategic Thought Center, placed the blame squarely on the regime for creating fertile ground for crimes against journalists, and sowing impunity.
“The time will come, and this regime will be held accountable for these crimes,” Gambar said.
Gambar described Rasim Aliyev as a “talented and courageous journalist.”
Turan News Agency Director Mehman Aliyev said that the murder “must be viewed in the broader context of the state of free press in the country.”
Murdered in retaliation for a Facebook post
Rasim Aliyev, a freelance reporter who worked for media monitoring group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), succumbed to his wounds on August 9. A day earlier, he was severely beaten by six men in retaliation for his Facebook post criticizing soccer player Javid Huseynov’s behavior.
In his last interview, Aliyev told Meydan TV that he had received a phone call from an individual who introduced himself as Huseynov’s cousin and insulted Aliyev. Later, this person called again and suggested that the two men talk “over tea” to clear the situation.
After getting out of his car, Aliyev was attacked by six men in the Bayil neighborhood of Baku, one of the area’s central streets that is under constant security camera surveillance. He lost hearing in his left ear and suffered fractures in his left rib.
“Later his condition worsened. Following another examination he was taken into surgery. The doctors removed his spleen. They also realized his lung was injured,” Aliyev’s father told local reporters.
Rasim Aliyev was buried on August 9.