On September 28, Avaz Hafizli, a journalist from an online news platform Kanal13 was harassed and beaten by the local security guards while covering the opening of a new restaurant in the capital of Baku.
Hafizli, arrived at the opening of Deyirman restaurant but was quickly stopped by the security guards. According to reporting by Turan News Agency, Hafizli asked the security guards to confirm whether the newly opened restaurant indeed belonged to the head of Yasamal administrative district, a government official and why ordinary citizens were not allowed in
Hafizli was live-streaming the encounter but the stream ended abruptly after the security guard resorted to violence.
The journalist told Turan News Agency that he was taken inside the garden of the restaurant where after guards’ attempt to bribe him, the exchange turned violent.
Hafizli called for help and managed to call the police. At the police station, the two sides wrote their individual statements but even there, Hafizli told Turan News Agency the restaurant representative kept threatening the journalist.
The following day, Hafizli went to a hospital where after a medical check-up he was told that his arm was broken.
The journalist complained to the Ministry of the Interior asking for an investigation and due punishment in the case of the perpetrators of the attack and the subsequent injury.
Kanal 13 is an online video news platform broadcasting from its YouTube channel to its close to a million subscribers. The channel was created in 2008.
In 2014, Kanal 13 was subject to a government launched an investigation that was targeting all independent, international, and opposition civil society organizations, including organizations as IREX and Kanal 13. At the time, the manager and founder of the channel Anar Orucov (brother of Aziz Orucov) were in charge of the office and the channel.
As part of the country-wide crackdown, Kanal 13 office was searched, documents confiscated. Fearing persecution, Anar Orucov fled the country with his family with the support of an international organization while Aziz Orucov stayed behind to continue managing the channel and the projects.
Kanal 13 has also been subject to online attacks. In March of 2017, a report released by Amnesty International, “False Friends- how fake accounts and crude malware targeted dissidents in Azerbaijan” detailed how Kanal 13 was among those targeted when its internal communications were accessed for over a week.
Two months later, the channel’s director Aziz Orucov was detained and later rearrested while the office of the channel was searched and equipment was confiscated.
On February 11, 2020, a suspended sentence against Aziz Orucov, editor of the platform, was dropped by the Baku Court of Appeal.
Orucov was arrested during the criminal investigations against non-governmental organizations in Azerbaijan. He was arrested in 2017, but released in 2018 on a suspended sentence. The sentence was until February 2021.
Orucov took over the managing of the platform after his brother Anar Orucov fled the country in 2014 amid threats of persecution.
The platform’s website kanal13.tv is on the list of blocked websites according to the most recent OONI measurements.
Earlier in September Hafizli reportedly chained himself to the gate of the Prosecutor General’s Office. The action was taken in protest of government inaction against homophobic incitement by blogger Sevinj Huseynova, whose recent videos in which the blogger openly calls for violence against trans community members have gone viral. Hafizli who is a member of the LGBTQI+ community in Azerbaijan attempted suicide on September 5 as a result of Huseynova’s videos.