The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned authorities in Baku for charging a prominent Azerbaijani journalist with high treason over allegations that he spied for Armenia.
The Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office said on Monday that Rauf Mirkadyrov "was recruited by the Armenian secret services in 2008 and supplied Yerevan with information on Azerbaijan's state secrets."
In a statement, the CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Nina Ognianova, called on Azerbaijani authorities "to drop these trumped-up charges and stop abusing the law to silence independent reporting on the country." She said Azerbaijan is "quickly becoming one of the leading jailers of journalists in the Eurasia region."
Mirkadyrov has been ordered to stay in pretrial custody for the next three months as investigators pursue the case. He is a correspondent for the Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo," which is published in Azerbaijan.
The CPJ statement said that press freedom in Azerbaijan has been “on a steady decline” in recent years. “Despite their declared commitments to uphold press freedom, as well as the obligations before the Council of Europe, Azerbaijani authorities have jailed and harassed critics, adopted laws restricting the press, and imposed draconian restrictions on nongovernmental organizations,” it said.