In the context of the extraordinary presidential elections held on 7 February in Azerbaijan, the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum has released a statement expressing its “deep concern” about the continuing suppression of independent media and civil society in Azerbaijan:
“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing crackdown on civil society and media, as well as the persistent challenges surrounding the registration, operation, and funding of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Azerbaijan.”
The Committee called on the government of Azerbaijan to broaden the space for civil society and enact necessary legislative changes to facilitate the registration, operation and funding of CSOs and donors within the country.
The Committee also asked the government of Azerbaijan to cease all forms of harassment and persecution against independent journalists and their media outlets, civil society, and political opposition. They were instead asked to foster an enabling environment conducive to genuine political pluralism.
The government of Azerbaijan was additionally asked to release all media and civil society leaders and activists, including the members of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum – Gubad Ibadoghlu, Bakhtyar Hajiyev, Aziz Orujov as well as Absaz Media journalists – Ulvi Hasanli, Mahammad Kekalov, Sevinj Vaqifqizi, Nargiz Absalamova, Elnara Gasimova, Hafiz Babali, and others that are currently imprisoned.
The Organisation also called on European institutions, EU member states and the international community at large “to prioritise meeting with Azerbaijani civil society organisations when visiting the country, providing them with crucial political and financial support that ensures their continued livelihood”.
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