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US Calls on Azerbaijan to 'Uphold Human Rights and Basic Freedoms'

  • VOA News

Staff from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service were held in their Baku offices by state prosecutors, who said they had a court order to close the bureau down.

Staff from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service were held in their Baku offices by state prosecutors, who said they had a court order to close the bureau down.

The U.S. State Department is calling on Azerbaijan to "uphold human rights and basic freedoms, including freedom of the press" after police raided Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Baku offices on Friday and detained and interrogated dozens of journalists from the U.S.-funded news organization in recent days.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on December 21, raising concerns about "Azerbaijan's crackdown on civil society."

Rathke said the State Department followed up about the actions against RFE/RL with senior Azerbaijani officials.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors called on Azerbaijani authorities to cease their investigations of RFE/RL journalists in Baku and allow the bureau to reopen immediately. In a statement, BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell said the harsh treatment and direct threats toward RFE/RL journalists "violates every principle of media freedom."

Shell also called on Azerbaijani officials to release RFE/RL journalist Khadija Ismayilova. She was arrested on December 5 and ordered detained for two months pending trial on accusations she drove a man to commit suicide. In 2012, Ismayilova reported on government corruption in Azerbaijan, which drew reprisals that included an online posting of a video of her having sex with her boyfriend.

The BBG oversees RFE/RL, Voice of America and other U.S. government-supported civilian international media.

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