Azerbaijani Journalists in Georgia Fear for Their Safety
Several Azerbaijani journalists who fled to Georgia to escape persecution in their home country have reported feeling increasingly unsafe in their adopted country. Elmaddin Shamilzade, a reporter from Azerbaijan who sought refuge in Georgia, was recently attacked by a group of men at a bar in the capital of Tbilisi. Shamilzade, who was previously arrested and beaten for his independent reporting, believes the attack was targeted and may have involved elements linked to the Azerbaijani security forces.
Many journalists have fled to Georgia from Azerbaijan to escape harassment, imprisonment, and threats for their work. Nurlan Gahramanli, a journalist and blogger, said he faced similar treatment in Azerbaijan before fleeing to Georgia. Teymur Karimov, the founder of an independent news channel on YouTube, was among those arrested in a recent crackdown in Azerbaijan, prompting Gahramanli to leave his homeland.
However, Georgia has also proven to be a risky destination for Azerbaijani journalists. Afgan Mukhtarli, who fled to Georgia in 2014, was abducted in Tbilisi and turned over to Azerbaijani authorities, where he was sentenced to prison. Many exiled Azerbaijani reporters in Georgia now fear for their safety, as they suspect the presence of Azerbaijani security agents among their compatriots in Georgia.
The situation for journalists and media in Azerbaijan has been troubling, with very few independent outlets remaining. The Azerbaijani government has also passed new media laws, further restricting freedom of the press. International press freedom groups, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, have expressed concerns over human rights violations and the persecution of media and opposition in Azerbaijan.
The recent deaths of three activists, including Husein Bakikhanov in Tbilisi, all ruled as suicides, have had a chilling effect on opponents of the Aliyev regime. Bakikhanov, an opposition blogger seeking asylum in Georgia, had described feeling threatened in his final video before his death. This has led to increased anxiety and fear among Azerbaijani activists and journalists in exile in Georgia.
The situation in Georgia has also become increasingly tense, with reports of harassment and surveillance targeting activists and exiled individuals from Azerbaijan. For many, the hope of finding safety and a new start in Georgia has been marred by a lingering sense of fear and uncertainty.
Overall, the plight of Azerbaijani journalists and activists in exile in Georgia highlights the challenges faced by those seeking refuge from persecution in their home country. The need for international attention and support for these individuals is critical as they navigate the complexities of living in exile and the constant fear of reprisals from their home government.