Azerbaijan: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Baku Bureau Finally Closed

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Baku office has officially closed.

rferlAzeri authorities raided the bureau in December 2014, interrogating employees and seizing computer equipment.

The premises were sealed off to staff, although the media service continued working from outside that office.

The owners of the office space, which formed part of a business center, reportedly asked RFE/RL not to return. RFE/RL had operated from the premises since 2006.

Prosecution investigator Sanan Pashayev allowed staff to enter the office on May 6 to clear out their possessions, according to Panorama.

The RFE/RL Baku team will continue its work in Prague, according to recent reports.

The closure is part of a wider trend of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets finding themselves unable to continue operating in Azerbaijan.

IREX, a US-funded NGO, and the Peace Corps both announced their withdrawal from Azerbaijan late last year amid a government crackdown on civil society.

RFE/RL investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova has been detained by Azeri authorities since early December on criminal charges which are widely believed to have been politically motivated.

Babek Bakirov, former chief of the Baku bureau, was prevented from leaving the country in February when he attempted to travel to Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, for medical treatment.

A source claiming to be a RFE/RL employee, spoke to Panorama under the name “Caucasian Knot” about his frustrations.

He said: “The premises are not what matters. We can rent another office, but the bank accounts of the radio have been frozen, and there are more obstacles against the recovery of the work of the Baku bureau as a legal entity.”