Azerbaijani Authorities Detained Head of Independent Media

Published: 21 November 2023

Ulvi Hasanli Detention

Azerbaijani police detains Ulvi Hasanli, director of Abzas Media. (Photo: Gulzar Mammadli)

By Fatima Karimova

On Monday, Azerbaijani authorities detained Ulvi Hansanli, the head of the independent news site Abzas Media, on unspecified charges.

Following Hasanli’s arrest, police conducted a five-hour search at Abzas Media’s office and reported finding 40 thousand euros cash, according to Hasanli’s lawyer, Zibeyda Sadigova.

Authorities declined to say why he has been detained, but Abzas Media’s recent stories have focused on businesses owned by family members of the country's top officials.

Police brought Hasanli with them when they came to search the Abzas office. During the search, Hasanli told his colleagues he had been physically mistreated and punched in the eye during his interrogation. He said that at the station, police had asked him about the “the investigations related to corruption stories” reported by Abzas Media.

“They asked questions about Abzas. ….Why are you writing about corruption? Why are you doing this, why are you doing that? There is not any problem to cover?” Hasanli told reporters.

Abzas Media issued a public statement accusing authorities of planting the 40 thousand euros in their office.

The alleged funds discovered in our office do not belong to Abzas Media and are a scenario invented by the investigative authorities to stop our activities and bring charges against Ulvi Hasanli," the statement said.

Hasanli’s disappearance was first reported by Abzas Media’s editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifqizi, who posted on Facebook that Hasanli went missing after he left home early Monday for the airport to travel abroad.

“He was supposed to be on the plane for his visit abroad, however he didn’t take [the] flight. Although he had always been reachable, now his phone is turned off. Nobody can reach [or] find him,” Vagifgizi posted.

The Defender Law Center in Azerbaijan issued a statement on X (former Twitter) calling on the Azerbaijani government to stop the politically motivated prosecutions.

“The Defender believes that the prosecution policy of the Government of Azerbaijan contradicts the current constitutional legal framework and the international legal obligations of the Republic of Azerbaijan regarding human rights. For this reason, the Government should stop these persecutions,” their statement reads.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also posted a status on Hasanli’s detention protesting against “unacceptable pressure on independent media” and called for his immediate release.